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London spotlight: five of the most sustainable working spaces

By Caitlin Rozario

The sustainability of a working space used to be a nice addition to other more popular features. But now ping pong tables, beer fridges and hammocks are on their way out, while good ventilation, meat-free Mondays and cycle-to-work schemes are swiftly becoming essentials rather than nice-to-haves. In fact, recent research showed that nearly a quarter of respondents ‘would refuse a job at an organisation with a poor sustainability record’.

The very fabric and structure of a building play a huge role in the sustainability of its office spaces. Eco-friendly building materials, green energy usage and carbon emission reduction are all hallmarks of an environmentally friendly workplace. 

Here we’ll take a look at some of the most impressive working spaces in London that are leading the way in sustainability.

Bloomberg European Headquarters, St. Paul’s

No list of sustainable London offices – perhaps even European offices – would be complete without Bloomberg’s HQ. Having achieved a 98.5% BREEAM sustainability rating, Bloomberg HQ is the diamond standard for eco-friendly working spaces.

Bloomberg is serious when it comes to the air inside their space. Ubiquitous sensors monitor the movement of people around the building and adjust airflow accordingly. This, they say, ‘will save 600-750 MWh of power per year’. The ceiling panels even work with this system to manage airflow (and their 0.5 million LED ceiling lights are also ultra energy-efficient).

Water conservation is another important factor in Bloomberg’s eco success. An on-site water treatment plant, recycled water systems, and vacuum-flush toilets help the building perform at 70% more water-efficiency than a normal office building. 

That’s not all: the outside of the building is fitted with custom bronze blades. When the outside air is temperate, the HVAC system can be switched off and the blades come into action. They not only cool and shade the building, but also reduce energy consumption. 

Every sustainable building worth its name knows that plants are great for aesthetics, mental wellbeing and clean air. Of course, Bloomberg has gone a step further with a floor-to-ceiling living wall in their pantry meeting space. 

PwC, 7 More London

Home to PwC, 7 More London is one of the sustainability stalwarts, and they plan to stay that way – the building was designed with longevity in mind. 

Even before the building was inhabited, PwC were determined to do their part: during construction, they ensured that they would produce significantly fewer carbon emissions than the building regulations required. They ended up working with two solutions: solar heating and trigeneration running on recycled biofuel. 

PwC thought about the space holistically, considering how it could encourage sustainable behaviour – the car park was replaced with showers and bicycle storage, while plentiful audio and video facilities allow for digital conferencing and less travel.

In fact, the whole building is fuelled on recycled biodiesel: waste cooking oil is collected, filtered and refined locally and is used to heat, light and run the building. This saves waste but also reduces emissions of harmful particulates, sulphur dioxide and carbon into the city air. Solar panels are still used too, providing hot water for the bathrooms.

Perhaps the most wonderful thing about this particular space is the attention that has been paid to its non-human tenants. PwC called in an ecologist to advise on how the unused roof space could be utilised and enhanced for the local wildlife. The result is 1,300 square metres of ecological space, home to threatened and protected species of bugs and birds.

7 More London was duly rewarded for all this thought and effort: it was the first building in London to achieve BREEAM Outstanding status. 

Bloom, Clerkenwell

Bloom Clerkenwell - spring has sprung | HB Reavis

Due to open in 2021, Bloom in Clerkenwell is set to be at the forefront of the sustainability game. They’ve been serious from the start, using environmentally friendly materials and implementing sustainable construction processes.

At AirRated, we love to see clear air being taken seriously: Bloom runs an air test and flushes each space out prior to occupancy. Organic chemical removal filters are installed throughout the building to ensure the cleanest drinking water for tenants, but never at the expense of the environment. Energy is green too: by connecting to Citigen, the district heating and cooling system, Bloom enjoys low carbon emissions. 

Unsurprisingly, plants are abundant at Bloom but they’re anything but ornamental. Office plantings guzzle CO2 but also work in an anti-allergen capacity; growing tables and ‘forests’ on the terrace encourage workers to grow their own fruits and vegetables. As an added bonus, Bloom has the most terrace space proportionally to other London office buildings. 

Charlie Russell-Jones, leasing manager for Bloom, said that the building ‘has been designed to provide the highest standards of office well-being and sustainability, and to be a hub for fresh thinking and growth’. Bloom clearly understands that eco-friendly spaces are an environmental necessity, but that they’re also better and healthier places for people to work, too. 

Bloom is working hard: they’re striving to not only achieve BREEAM Outstanding status, but also to become one of the first offices in London to achieve WELL Certified Platinum.

Brunel Building

Named after the world-famous engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the Brunel Building houses tenants such as Sony Pictures, Premier League, Coach, Splunk, Paymentsense, Hellman & Friedman, Coach and Alpha FX.

Right from the start, the Brunel Building had a focus on sustainability. In the early stages, assessments were carried out to ensure that no opportunity for reducing carbon emissions was missed throughout the entire process. Many building materials were made from other recycled materials and in turn more than 98% of construction waste was recycled. 

Heating and cooling was a key consideration for the Brunel Building. Making great use of two 180m-deep boreholes and stable ground temperatures, an aquifer thermal energy storage (ATES) system keeps the temperature in the building regulated whilst ensuring low carbon emissions. Other features such as low energy fan coil units and exposed concrete soffits improve tenant comfort but continue to keep energy consumption and emissions low. 

The Brunel Building boasts very impressive credentials. It has already achieved a BREEAM Excellent rating, a WiredScore Platinum rating and a LEED Gold rating.

Knotel, 15Hatfields 

We would be remiss if we left this list without a co-working space. 

Knotel made a smart decision moving into 15Hatfields, one of London’s most sustainable buildings, knowing that sustainability and productivity go hand in hand. 

15Hatfield’s credentials are impressive: it was the first venue in the UK to receive NQA Sustainable Development Management Scheme certification. It has also been awarded ISO 14001 certification, a ‘framework of control for an Environmental Management System’. As a result of this, 15Hatfields is now fully internationally compliant.

Like PwC, the building has policies that encourage sustainable behaviour from tenants: a strict ban on bottled water has saved 1 million plastic water bottles from landfill. Instead, water is filtered on-site and served in reusable glass bottles. They also have a free Refill venue on-site and operate a zero waste to landfill policy. ‘Energy-saving devices’ have reduced utility bills by 50%.

Taking the sustainability mission beyond the office, 15Hatfields has dedicated itself to helping to save London bees by distributing over 2 million wildflower seeds.

Small changes make all the difference

These workplaces are leading the way for sustainability, but there is still a lot of work to be done. A 2019 survey showed that 73% of employees wanted their workplace sustainability policy to improve. Many office spaces may not be able to make changes on the scale of the ones, but that shouldn’t be daunting: there is a wealth of information out there to help you get started with creating an office space that is better for our environment, our health and our futures.