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Green Sky Thinking: workspace of the future

Allford Hall Monaghan Morris (AHMM) teamed up with Derwent London and Arup to discuss how research is informing future design for next generation workspaces

A regular in Open City’s Green Sky Thinking line-up, this year AHMM hosted a morning presentation including a tour of its new BREEAM Outstanding offices to around 50 attendees. With a strong portfolio of office developments including Tea Building, Angel Building, Johnson Building and Moreland’s, the AJ100 practice are now focusing on building performance post-completion to inform the next generation of workspaces.

Chaired by AHMM’s head of sustainability Nic Crawley who acknowledged the importance of the AHMM, Derwent London and Arup collaboration stating ‘the best work is a result of the relationships we have’ touched upon the significant time and energy taken to integrate sustainability into the daily work flow of the office.

With an emphasis on researching building performance, AHMM’s sustainability specialist Craig Robertson challenged the assumptions we currently design to. Focusing on AHMM’s recently completed part retrofit-part new-build office, Robertson presented data on the temperature levels inside the office for a week in March 2014. The results showed temperatures exceeding design targets, however with no complaints from the occupants, it raises the question, how far can we veer outside of the recommended standards and still produce comfortable spaces? A debated topic over the last year which saw Benjamin Lesser, development manager at commercial developer Derwent London, describing the BCO guide as ‘a victim of its own success.’ Lesser said: ‘It has become a specification and it’s read as a simple checklist. We need to unshackle ourselves from the BCO one-size-fits-all glass box with fan-coil units.’

Additionally Robertson presented the headline electricity and fossil fuel energy use, showing an increase in comparison to what was estimated in the design process compliance calculations. This was in part explained by the higher internal temperatures but largely by unregulated electrical end uses, demonstrating the limitations of  compliance calculations that are often one of the sources of the ‘performance gap’. 

The data collected aims to contribute to promoting an alternative way of designing office spaces and more importantly, a way of encouraging developers and clients to go against the standard sealed glass boxes. Fortunate to have Derwent London as a client, AHMM has collaborated with the developers on the White Collar Factory concept. Developed into a one room prototype in Old Street’s ‘Tech City’ used to sell the concept to developers and test the environmental qualities of the space, the £1.5million marketing suite is now being demolished to make way for a 16-storey new-build office development which epitomises the White Collar Factory model.

AHMM's prototype White Collar Factory on Old Street

AHMM’s prototype White Collar Factory on Old Street

Working as part of the design team from day one, Arup’s sustainability consultant Mel Allwood discussed the key features of the project and the reiterated the importance of a collaborative relationship with clients and consultants when delivering sustainable projects.

With each facade behaving differently designed to respond to the orientation, openable windows and concrete core cooling, the White Collar Factory has been tested in accordance with future temperatures of 2020, 2050 and 2080 to ensure that the building can cope with the predicted future warmer climate and support the cooling demands. Aiming to achieve BREEAM Outstanding and LEED Platinum, the embedded sustainable qualities have resulted in no ‘bolt-on’ elements to achieve the targets - aside from one electric car parking space.

Challenging the typical office development, the building which is currently on site is a product of a successful collaboration with a shared vision to change how we design and build commercially. 

With continued in-depth monitoring of energy use in its own office and in its completed buildings, AHMM are taking the opportunity to assess and learn to inform the development of future architecture.

  • Michelle Price is an architectural assistant at AHMM

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