A blueprint for the future

Building iconic architecture in the City of London can be both sustainable and cost effective, according to Davis Langdon, an AECOM company

As befits its status as a leading centre for international business, central London is in the midst of a phase of landmark high-rise developments.

These iconic buildings – including the forthcoming Shard and the recently completed Heron Tower – are designed to meet the demands of clients and occupiers while simultaneously and dramatically transforming the skyline. During this spurt of building, London has become one of the most expensive places in the world to build, particularly for city-centre towers, and while the demand for quality architecture remains high, the twin challenges of recession and climate change are putting added pressure on developers’ budgets.

South-facing view of the City of London with the Heron Tower in the foreground

Last autumn, industry leader Sir Stuart Lipton set a challenge to develop a new kind of low-cost tall building that maintained architectural integrity while also being truly sustainable. A team consisting of Davis Langdon, Aedas, WSP and Hilson Moran undertook a research exercise, labelled the Future Office, to explore the implications of typical design and technical decisions that would help lead to the construction of a tall building for £125/sq ft (compared with the current mean of £250/sq ft) that would last for a minimum of 60 years.

Steve Watts, head of Davis Langdon’s Tall Buildings Group, says: “To create a truly sustainable building, it needs to be at once environmentally, socially and economically sympathetic and, as such, the key focus of the Future Office study was on people, planet and profit.”

The team covered the key disciplines for a building at various stages of development in London and aimed for a scheme with minimal complexity and an optimised floor plate. As the project evolved, the team developed a methodology for quantifying options in terms of capital and whole life costs, spatial efficiency, embodied carbon as based on the new Olympic carbon foot-printing template, energy costs over 60 years and fit-for-purpose criteria like comfort and adaptability. This resulted in a matrix which was colour-coded through a traffic-light scale of better to worse to allow developers, architects and occupiers (and possibly legislators) to interpret the qualitative considerations against their financial and environmental impacts.

Therefore, rather than attempting to identify an ideal building, the matrix revealed a number of trends and observations, including that a curtain wall facade, while advantageous in many respects including speed and simplicity, suffers in whole life costs in comparison with concrete panels, and that localised air handling is better for long-term energy savings, while centralised is better for noise and air pollution. It also found that the most significant saving – about 25 per cent – is achieved by reducing equipment load through grade A appliances and monitored building management systems.

After all its research, the team was able to create building options ranging from £136/sq ft to £154/sq ft, with 71 per cent to 73 per cent net to gross efficiency, metrics that compare favourably with benchmark data from central London landmark towers. All in all, the Future Office study demonstrated that there are design options that allow architects and developers a level of flexibility and respond to different value perspectives – invaluable in our challenging and ever-changing times.

Reshaping London’s skyline

Davis Langdon, an AECOM company, has been at the forefront of the evolving London skyline. Headed by Steve Watts, the organisation’s Tall Buildings Group is working closely on six of the capital’s newest towers.

These include the Shard, which will be the tallest building in Europe when it is completed in 2012; the Leadenhall Building; the Pinnacle; the Tower at One St George Wharf in Vauxhall; and the recently completed Broadgate Tower and Heron Tower, both of which have been recognised for their sustainability credentials, having achieved BREEAM ratings of “excellent”.

For further information, please email steve.watts@davislangdon.com


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