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Walking the talk – the new UK-GBC & WorldGBC office, London

In January this year, we announced details of our project to refurbish our London headquarters, which is also home to some of our friends and colleagues from World Green Building Council.

The project aims to set an exemplar for a low-carbon, low-energy, small office refurb; whilst delivering a space with high wellbeing credentials that is conducive to improved productivity. Now, as we near practical completion, I’m delighted to say that we are on target to achieve that.

Our design team have worked tirelessly alongside our suppliers from within and beyond our membership to ensure that each product used in the refurbishment is as sustainable as it can be. We have sought, wherever possible, to re-use or repurpose our existing materials. For instance, we are using our old meeting room glass for our whiteboard surfaces and reupholstering our office chairs instead of replacing them. More generally, each potential new product or design feature has been carefully assessed by our team to ensure that it fits within our carbon ‘budget’. Retaining a keen focus on this target has been a fascinating challenge, especially given our desire to achieve a range of other objectives – such as improved health and wellbeing – on a strict timescale and budget.

A key aim was to ensure that we were showcasing innovation and best practice, and as such I’m excited that we are using a number of pioneering products and unusual approaches as part of the refurb. This has included, for example, a new low-carbon plasterboard and plaster solution from Adaptivate, which seeks to replace this ubiquitous building material with an alternative produced using a by-product from crop cultivation.

Our desire to demonstrate new ways of achieving positive outcomes extended to provision of additional fresh air, too, with a ventilation system that incorporates fans supplied by Vent Axia to draw in air to the main office space via our secondary glazing, alongside a more traditional system for the meeting rooms. Even the latter provided room for improvement on the norm, with the system using Spiralite ductwork, which is made from insulation material and therefore lighter and more thermally efficient than the standard metal alternative

Building on the wellness theme, we chose to fit DESSO AirMaster® carpet, which is effective in removing particulates and improving air quality. Desso also helped with our embodied carbon targets by collecting and recycling the old carpet. The new energy efficient Philips LED lighting will contribute to both wellbeing and environmental targets, delivering a 50 per cent reduction in emissions as well as a better consistency and quality of light to the team.

A significant part of the overall look and feel will be the paint on the walls, which is being provided by Dulux Trade, and will include a variety of innovative coatings, including one paint that contains 80 per cent recycled content. Help to choose the right products was provided by Dulux’s new ‘Sustainable Specification’ model, which was designed to help teams like ours quickly select the right sustainable paint products for their projects.

The centrepiece of the office will be our green wall, supplied by ANS Global, which features 1,589 plants of 12 species. The installation is self-irrigating and was chosen based on its excellent sustainability credentials. The plant wall, along with a moss wall installation in the boardroom, and plants supplied by Plant Designs in the body of the office, is designed to introduce increased biophilic elements throughout the office.

These examples represent but a few of the generous contributions from the team and our suppliers. Thanks to them, we are close to delivering something that will set a benchmark for sustainable refurbishment, whilst providing a healthy environment in which UK-GBC and WorldGBC staff and visitors can work. The office is set to open in early October and throughout the Autumn we will be showcasing the project through member tours and by producing content that focuses in detail on different aspects of the project in order to share our experience with the industry. Keep your eyes peeled for further updates.

Richard Griffiths is Head of Commercial Policy & Partnerships at the UK Green Building Council, an Established member of WorldGBC.

For more information on the project, visit UK-GBC’s office refurb webpage.

UK-GBC’s sustainability targets include:

  • Carbon cost (£/m²) meeting or exceeding the standard achieved by other comparable fit-out projects, with an aspiration to achieve the lowest
  • 98% of the current fit-out to be reused, repurposed or recycled, and a strong emphasis on new materials that are locally sourced with high recycled content and recyclability, each with an ‘end of life’ plan
  • Air quality maximised in line with the relevant WELL Standard requirements, including the minimisation of VOCs from materials used, and the provision of ample fresh air
  • Reducing energy used per employee for lighting and small power by 40% by 2020 compared to a 2013 baseline
  • At least a 10% improvement in staff satisfaction with the environment.

Key suppliers on the project:

  • 8point3
  • Adaptavate
  • ANS Global
  • Autex
  • Desso
  • Dulux Trade
  • Forbo
  • Mitsubishi
  • Philips
  • Plant Designs
  • Rype Office
  • Spiralite
  • Steelcase
  • Vent Axia

Thanks to:

  • Tass
  • Honeywell