Matthew Byway takes a look at a build he assessed, one of only ten ‘Gold’ rated Ska offices in the UK
In February 2012 commercial interior specialist Fourfront Group moved to period offices on Newman Street, near London’s Oxford Circus.
The vision was to create a sustainable office environment within the 7,500 sq ft period building while retaining the character period features.
These offices were to be the group’s flagship destination, with further property at Egham in Surrey. Fourfront Group wanted to create the most efficient and environmentally friendly setting possible at its new London office. It chose to follow the new best practice criteria developed by Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) - Ska Rating.
The group is ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 UKAS certified and offers its customers sustainable design and fit out services, so it was important to create a flagship office and practise what it preaches. One of the four divisions of the group, Area Sq, was commissioned to design and build the fit out, further demonstrating the group’s abilities in sustainable construction.
Fourfront wanted to show its clients that you can dramatically improve the sustainability of the built environment by optimising the way an office is designed, constructed, maintained and operated.
Living principles of design
The office has been designed to allow the users to feel more connected and to relate more closely to the natural environment. The space has been maximised by removing unnecessary partitions whilst retaining the high ceilings. The lower ground floor is now an integral part of the office space; the clunky and inefficient lift has been replaced by a central spiral staircase that lets light flood in.
Natural finishes provide simplicity, subtlety and clean lines, which enables the office to retain the feel of an environment that stimulates the mind.
Going for gold
Initial evaluation demonstrated that it was possible to achieve 75 of the Ska Rating’s 104 good practice measures during the project and the project team was able to meet 58 of these. This included achieving 14 Gold Gateway Measures, which are considered to be harder to achieve but offer the most significant impacts in terms of sustainability.
The history of the building was considered throughout and the use of modern technologies was complemented with period design features including recycled content library style wallpaper in the main meeting room and the use of a salvaged door as a reception desk.
Central to the project achieving a Gold Ska rating was the implementation of automatic monitoring and targeting equipment (AMT).
Made to measure
The Group installed an integrated building and technology system, an intelligent software based platform which unifies all of the office’s energy-consuming systems including heating, ventilation, air conditioning, lighting and AV.
The intuitive system manages occupancy usage of the meeting rooms for maximum productivity and efficiency; when a meeting is scheduled, it automatically "wakes up" the room prior to the start of a presentation. After the meeting, the occupancy sensors detect when the room is vacant and react by turning off devices. Fourfront Group now has the ability to control and monitor all devices and envisages that this will save over 30 tonnes of CO2 a year, which equates roughly to £12,000 in energy costs.
The lighting is a mixture of LED and high frequency fluorescent fittings, controlled by a DALI system with absence detection and daylight sensing. It estimates that lighting controls will reduce our energy consumption by around 26%.
The group now has the ability to control all office systems remotely, providing data to enable the analysis of the results and pinpoint where energy might be wasted and where energy saving measures will be most effective.
Of the materials used, at least 80% contain recycled or recyclable content and have an A or A+ rating in BRE’s Green Guide to Specification. The reclaimed front desk, woven vinyl flooring and storage cupboards made of wood from FSC sources demonstrate this commitment.
Crucial to the project’s success was managing out waste. Before project commencement Fourfront Group considered its waste streams and then looked at ways of designing it out - 92% was diverted from landfill.
Waste and lighting were the most successful elements of the project with 100% of measures relating to the categories achieved. This demonstrates the success with which period properties can be retrofitted; Fourfront Group’s aim of a headquarters which showcase its priorities and abilities has been achieved.
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