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Environmental norm

Stride Treglown has designed an office at Temple Quay in its home city of Bristol for the detr which it believes should, by its very anonymity, determine the future of green buildings. Currently under construction , the building will provide 13,000m2 of office space which, the architect claims, 'challenges conventional images of green buildings'. If the new orthodoxy comprises brises-soleil and wind towers, then this is a very quiet, and relatively inexpensive version. The building relies on opening windows in deep reveals, exposed concrete soffits in office areas to provide thermal mass and stack-effect ventilation generated in the atrium. If the detr wants to wear its green credentials on its sleeve, this building will not serve its purpose; but as a body which sponsors research into sustainability it must be delighted to be moving into the space, which makes the transition for the building type from special to ordinary.

Not only does this remove all visible green markers from the building; it also makes the building competitive with a normal speculative office development. Its £17.5 million price tag makes it comparable, says Stride Treglown's Martin Pease, to a standard speculative office building with fan-coil cooling, but the running cost will be between half and one third. Achieving this was partly the result of not demanding extraordinarily high standards of concrete finish. Pease, who believes that 'we will see the loss of suspended ceilings as more prevalent from now on,' argues that we should not try to deny the nature of concrete. 'We should see blowholes or joint lines as like the holes in a ceiling grid.'

Some might see this as an example of the architect 'letting go', but for Pease this is what the building is about. 'The whole principle is about letting things go,' he said. 'You let the airflow go. At night time we have a very simple automated window-opening system.' The other essential of Stride Treglown's strategy is to zone the building so that heat-producing equipment, such as photocopiers and fax machines, is restricted to specific areas which have local cooling.

Although the building is for a government occupier, the detr is leasing it from a developer, Castlemore Securities, which therefore needed it to be lettable on the open market. While many of the ideas adopted were pioneered in Bennetts Associates' PowerGen building, the importance here is not innovation but its incorporation in a building which in many ways could be a standard speculative office. However, its lessons are not universally applicable. The office has been deliberately sited in the very centre of the Temple Quay site, to minimise sound pollution from the noisy peripheries. Opening windows, popular with tenants and at the heart of any low-energy strategy, will not become the norm until the universal problems, traffic noise and pollution, are tackled.

The structural engineer for the project is Clarke Bond Partnership; WSP is m&e engineer,. Gleeds is qs and the contractor is Wates Construction. The building is due for occupation in March 2001.

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