Is new Bloomberg HQ world’s greenest building?
Cameron Jewell | 31 October 2017
Business and financial news company Bloomberg has officially opened its £1 billion (AU$1.72b) European HQ in London, a building it has labelled the world’s most sustainable.
The Foster + Partners-designed HQ is spread across two 10-storey buildings on a 3.2-acre (13,000 square metre) site, and will consolidate 4000 London-based staff, with room for 6500.
Part of the “world’s most sustainable” claim comes from a BREEAM sustainability assessment score of 98.5 per cent, the highest ever design-stage score achieved by a large-scale office.
The building is expected to cut water by 73 per cent, and energy and carbon emissions by 35 per cent, compared with a traditional office.
Founder of the company Michael Bloomberg said environmentally friendly practices were good for business and the planet.
“From day one, we set out to push the boundaries of sustainable office design – and to create a place that excites and inspires our employees,” he said.
“The two missions went hand-in-hand, and I hope we’ve set a new standard for what an office environment can be.”
Foster + Partners founder and executive chair Norman Foster said sustainable design was the most important element of the project.
“In some of our first discussions on the project, Mike Bloomberg and I arrived at a ‘meeting of minds’ on how the design of the new Bloomberg headquarters should incorporate the highest standards of sustainability,” he said. “The project evolved from thereon into a building that is one of the most sustainable in the world.”
On the outside the building aims to replicate a traditional stone building, using 9600 tonnes of Derbyshire sandstone, and keeping itself mid-rise, part of Bloomberg’s effort to be a good neighbour, and fit in contextually.
Inside the office, however, the focus is on innovation and collaboration, with the cores pushed to the edges of the building to visually open the space, with a spiralling ramp and double-height “pantry” on the sixth floor designed to increase chance meetings and interaction.
The most interesting element is the ceiling panels, featuring 2.5 million individual aluminium “petals”, inspired by the pressed metal ceilings of New York. Aside from their aesthetic value, the ceiling petals provide a range of services – lighting, cooling, acoustic attenuation, “combining various elements of a typical office ceiling into an energy-saving integrated system”.
Embedded in the petals are 500,000 LED lights, which cut energy use by 40 per cent compared with a standard system.
There’s also the ability for natural ventilation (probably not likely to be used in London), with some of the building’s bronze fins able to open and let in fresh air.
“The deep plan interior spaces are naturally ventilated through a ‘breathing’ façade while a top lit atrium edged with a spiralling ramp at the heart of the building ensures a connected, healthy and creative environment,” Lord Foster said.
CO2 sensors in the building allow fresh air to be dynamically served according to the number of people occupying each zone, saving between 600-750 megawatt-hours of electricity a year.
Water has been a key concern, with rainwater, grey water and cooling tower blow-off collected and used for toilet flushing, saving an estimated 25 million litres of water a year.
A cogeneration system has also been installed to supply heat and power, expected to cut carbon emissions by 500-750 tonnes a year.
Alan Yates, technical director of BRE Global’s Sustainability Group, which runs BREEAM, said the project was set apart by a “relentless” focus on innovation and a holistic approach to sustainable design and construction.
“Projects like these are really important in giving confidence to the industry to experiment,” he said.
How sustainable is it?
The building, however, has its critics, particularly around its use of cogeneration technology.
“The most sustainable office building in the world wouldn’t burn fossil fuels,” Lloyd Alter wrote for Treehugger.
Indeed, in Australia, those with high sustainability ambitions are moving away from gas as a source of energy, in both the commercial and residential domains.
- See Monash to cut the gas, target Passive House and go 100 per cent renewable and Cutting the gas: Has the all-electric home’s time finally arrived?
As noted in our Visit Tomorrowland ebook to be released this week, embodied carbon is perhaps already of more importance than operational emissions in terms of carbon impact, and as we move towards a renewable energy grid will grow in importance.
So the 600 tonnes of imported bronze from Japan and a “quarry-full of granite from India”, according to the Guardian, aren’t insignificant environmental impacts.
Nonetheless, the building stands as an example of sustainable and contextually appropriate development, and has been welcomed by London’s mayor Sadiq Khan.
“This fantastic new building is a huge vote of confidence in London as a destination for global business,” he said.
“It is also a shining example of what can be achieved by combining fantastic British architecture and the latest green technology to reduce our impact on the environment.”