Breathing new life into the city

Nick Myall
03 Mar 2016

This project in London epitomises the benefits that recycling an existing building can bring

Designed by Aukett Swanke, 125 Wood Street in London is a striking new 65,000 sq ft BREEAM Excellent office development undertaken by Orchard Street Investment Management on behalf of a major UK pension fund. The scheme retained and expanded the structure of a previous 45,000 sq ft 1980’s office building on the site.

The significant uplift in net area was achieved through extending the footprint of typical floors, adding two new office floors and a new plant enclosure at high level, abutting the constraint of a London View Management Framework (LVMF) vista to St Paul’s Cathedral. Besides a significant uplift in floor area the building has a new contemporary façade and interior while seamlessly integrating the existing retained structure, transforming a dull 1980s structure into an impressive new building of civic distinction.

The buildings conditioning systems and plant were selected for low energy, comfort and low maintenance costs but also importantly for minimised zones to maximise clear floor to ceiling height allowing floor to ceiling heights to be improved to 2700mm.

Overall the project epitomises the benefits that recycling an existing building can bring, but also the significant challenges to overcome and rigour in co-ordination and construction that is required, and was successfully achieved in this case.

One year on from practical completion the building is now 100% let - testament to the appeal of the completed product.

The existing building was built in 1986; designed by Lister Drew Architects. The building had six office floors with mechanical plant in a basement and an enclosed seventh floor plant room. The office floors were served by two stairs and three passenger lifts. These were located in a core along with WC’s and riser space at the rear of the plan abutting the party wall. The external appearance of the building was tired and the design dated. A recent book on City Architecture ‘New City’ by Alec Forshaw noted ‘With its coarse red brick it sits like an odd apple among all the twenty first-century glass, grey metal and white stone’.

  • The building should look like a ‘new build’ despite the intention to re-use the existing structure.
  • To achieve as much net area gain as possible
  • Maximise clear floor to ceiling height
  • Investigate the feasibility of adding an additional office floor
  • Preserve the Wood Street address
  • Design a sustainable scheme to achieve BREEAM ‘Excellent’

Numerous challenges were overcome through the project, many of which are common to any central London scheme; a tight site, party wall awards and neighbourly matters.

A more specific challenge was the proximity to St Paul’s Cathedral and the site’s location within the background of the LVMF view from King Henry VIII’s Mound in Richmond to St Pauls Cathedral. The addition of two new floors of office space and a plant enclosure under the datum height constraint of this view required intense work and collaboration between disciplines. The detailed design of the roof slab was key to solving this challenge. The long cantilever required for the BMU introduced significant loading which required a deep structure, militating against the reduced zone available under the LVMF constraint. The solution involved upstand beams which run between major items of plant within the enclosure, maximising clear space below and co-ordinating the structural and primary plant zone at the roof.

[From the architects]


Nick Myall

News Editor

Key Facts

United Kingdom
Commercial Offices

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