Office envy

Monday 12 Aug 2013

WAN visits the future White Collar Factory and Old Street Yard, London

Derwent London have a reputation for design-led regeneration of buildings in London; Properties with the potential to create well-designed office space and revitalise neighbourhoods. "We tend to look at former industrial-type buildings with a view to utilising their volume, light, mass and floor span," said Benjamin Lesser, Development Manager, Derwent London.

Derwent and Allford Hall Monaghan Morris (AHMM) started looking at the office environment as a hypothetical research project in the 2008 credit crunch. They wanted to challenge the over-specified offices that they think are too many in London. They have, however, been working together since the 1980s, learning lessons from each project and pushing the boundaries in the next project. "We are constantly looking at challenging the norms: why can't we open a window in an office, take our jacket off to regulate the temperature?" said Ceri Davies, Project Architect, AHMM. Both Lesser and Davies agree that there is an evolution of thought as they encounter the future White Collar Factory and Old Street Yard project.

White Collar Factory and Old Street Yard is located in 'tech city', adjacent to Old Street tube. There is currently no central public space for local industries or the local residents, so AHMM carried out a comprehensive local business and public consultation programme to showcase their designs and get people involved and excited about the proposals.

"Old Street tube, at present, is not the greatest experience, so the new scheme aims to bring money in and improve the public realm. The tech city-infrastructure needs to be good, whilst the overall plans for this area must not make it too sanitised," said Davies.

With openable windows on such a busy vehicular interchange, and in order to counter the current noise/pollution argument, Benjamin suggests that it is only one side of the building that faces the roundabout, the other sides are quiet, and in the future the streets will be populated/frequented by quieter, non-polluting electric or hydrogen vehicles. "We are giving occupiers the opportunity to open their windows and connect to the outside world but it is their choice," he explains.

They are aiming for a more relaxed office environment that will attract the best candidates for the clients purely via the calibre and excitement of their offices, offering an 'intelligent blank canvas' in order to show their prospective tenants how to fit out the space. They have left available a certain amount of flexible space with a number of suggested interior arrangements that suit the model & design theory.

Derwent encourage tenant interaction and have learnt a lot over the years from the way their own tenants occupy space: intending to future-proof the building for the changing nature of how people occupy space.

The building will be extremely sustainable: Concrete Core water Cooling will save 1 tonne CO2 per two days as the UK temperate climate means mechanical ventilation and cooling is only needed for half of the year and energy costs will also be reduced. The tenants will use a smart device App that constantly monitors their use of the building and advises on their energy consumption and usage. Derwent propose that the White Collar Factory and Old Street Yard will be 10-15% cheaper to build due to their intelligent building design.

On the interior, the services are exposed and visual, thereby reducing the need for false ceilings and helping the tenant or user understand how everything works. On the exterior, glazing is interspersed with solid façades, inspired by Jean Prouve's Maison Tropicale, featuring circular air vents.

Derwent have invested a sum of money in a Live Suite. This is a 1:1 working prototype model for educating commercial agents, potential tenants and contractors and serves as a real test bed for the whole space, from the bevel-edge punctuated façade to the mechanical and electrical (M and E) performance (Arup are monitoring the M and E for a year). AKT II are the structural engineers.

Caroline Stephens
WAN Business Information Manager

In May 2013, Derwent London ran a competition to design the reception area of White Collar Factory:

Derwent London and Office Concierge are looking for radical and refreshing new ideas to transform this visitor experience from a waiting game to infuse it with drama and a sense of occasion and arrival.

This competition was issued on the WAN Business Information Service.

Key Facts:

United Kingdom
Commercial Offices

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