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Transforming office spaces

In a hybrid world, office spaces of the future, whether retrofit or built new, must give that something extra

Building offices requires a high level of expertise for the unique conditions of working on constrained sites with limited access. These are often structurally challenging buildings, and we have a team of experts that can deliver to these exacting conditions.

The pandemic was the catalyst for change in the commercial office sector, driving change in the way workplaces are used and their purpose. As well as hot desking and agile working being more common, people who work in these spaces are now demanding more than they have before. People want more collaborative options, outside areas to enjoy, as well as facilities such as gyms and social spaces.

As the purpose of offices continues to evolve, there is much debate over whether to consolidate spaces, retrofit buildings that have outlived their purpose, or simply build new. Re-purposing empty or unproductive buildings drives both an increase in asset value and delivers a host of benefits for local communities.

There’s also growing awareness of the carbon saved through a “retrofit first” approach, with the British Property Federation calling on government to introduce an “overarching retrofit strategy and tax incentives”.

EPC ratings and sustainability are high on the agenda. In April 2023 there were changes introduced whereby commercial buildings could not be let if they didn't have an EPC of E or above. The government is seeking to strengthen these standards and has proposed that all commercial properties being let have a minimum EPC rating of at least B by 2030. And they're considering a possible interim requirement of C by 2027. Let's not forget that to meet net-zero targets by 2050, all office spaces will need to be brought up to EPC A or A+.

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Click here to read our 'Offices of the Future' paper

Find out how we're delivering office spaces that are fit for the future, including:

A back-to-the-frame transformation at 10 Brindleyplace

Situated in the heart of Birmingham city centre, this project was a back-to-the-frame refurbishment of 210,000 sq ft of Grade A office space. As part of this, 8 and 10 Brindleyplace were combined into one building to create one of Birmingham’s largest office floorplates at around 27,000 sq ft.

Sustainability is embedded throughout this project, starting with the decision to go down the back-to-the-frame refurbishment route. By undertaking a refurbishment rather than demolishing the old building and creating a new one from scratch, there has been a huge saving in embodied carbon - a building life cycle assessment puts this at around 60%.

In terms of operational carbon, a range of solutions have been put in place to make the building as energy efficient as possible. It's predicted that the new office will require 65% less energy than offices of this size. Solutions put in place include:

  • Taking a fabric-first approach to increase energy efficiency and reduce heating and cooling demands - this included things like ensuring high levels of thermal insulation and air tightness
  • Utilising a brick slip system to transform the external façade and increase insulation
  • Incorporating smart metres that help to provide real-time energy management by feeding data into a digital twin
  • Making use of natural solutions, such as a green roof, which will help to keep the building cooler in summer and warmer in winter
  • Replacing the need for gas or fossil fuels with all-electric heating, cooling and hot water systems
  • A solar PV array on the roof also helps to provide green energy

This large scale transformation has truly put the end-user at the heart of the project, with occupant wellbeing being taken into account throughout the build. In fact, the project has achieved a Fitwel 2 Stars, making it the first Birmingham-based office building to receive Fitwel accreditation for its health and wellness features.

Alongside the range of flexible and collaborative Grade A office spaces available, a proportion of the building's floorspace is made up of different amenities to enhance the experience of building users. This includes things like a bouldering wall, a gym, outdoor terraces, a cafe, podcast studios and zoom rooms.

Other accreditations the building has achieved include an 'A' EPC rating, WiredScore Platinum and it's aiming to achieve BREEAM 'Excellent'.

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TBC.London - one of London's first net-zero work spaces

FORE Partnership has made an industry-leading commitment to ensure its business and buildings are net-zero carbon by 2025. To achieve this at TBC.London, an out-of-date 1990s office building next to Tower Bridge, the existing building will be stripped back to the frame and sustainable solutions incorporated throughout.

The existing five-storey building is currently being stripped back and renewed through a deep refurbishment, preserving the embodied carbon in the frame. We're also adding two floors of office space, with an additional floor that will be set back from Tower Bridge to create a terrace and club room. This will result in 110,000 sq ft of workspace.

As well as saving embodied carbon emissions by retaining the original frame, this project is going even further by using innovative concrete mixes to reduce the amount of cement used and by reusing steel from other buildings.

In fact, in June 2023, the project demonstrated circular economy principles by reusing sixteen tonnes of 1930s steel beams salvaged from an old department store on Oxford Street. Reusing sixteen tonnes of beams will save an estimated 48 tonnes of carbon dioxide compared to using new steelwork. This is the equivalent to driving a car around the earth 50 times. Additional reclaimed steel has also been acquired, making this the largest percentage of a structure ever constructed with reclaimed material with 20% of the steel being reclaimed. The rest of the steel has a minimum of 56% recycled content.

The building is also aiming to be net-zero carbon in operation. Initially, we're going to be utilising Passivhaus principles to make TBC.London as air-tight and energy efficient as possible. We are also implementing solar panels and green electricity tariffs - this means the building will be 100% electric and no fossil fuels will be used in running the property.

The project is targeting a range of accreditations, including EPC A, BREEAM 'Outstanding' and WELL Platinum. If all of these are achieved, TBC.London will be one of Europe’s greenest, healthiest buildings.

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Building energy efficient council headquarters at Public Sector Hub

The old headquarters for East Lindsey District Council was old and near end-of-life. The building had such poor levels of energy efficiency that retrofitting was ruled out as an option.

The new building is predicted to consume 75% less energy compared to the old offices, which means it will be cost neutral in just 8 years! The space benefits from a range of energy-efficient measures, including LED lighting and a PV array on the roof, which will significantly reduce maintenance costs and carbon footprint when compared with the previous council headquarters.

Facilities within the building include office spaces, a council chamber and areas for Boston College to provide new adult learning courses for those aged 19+.

To help make the building as efficient as possible, we have also implemented Energy Synergy TM. This tool will enable us to monitor energy usage, identify any potential performance gaps, and then put a plan in place drive down energy costs. This will involve ongoing monitoring for up to three years to ensure the building is being used in the most efficient way possible.

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Creating Bristol’s first BREEAM 'Outstanding' commercial office space at Aurora

Aurora is a landmark office building in Bristol, providing 95,000 sq ft. of Grade A office space. It has:

  • Reduced carbon emissions by 37%
  • Required 59% less water than a typical office building
  • Reduced embodied carbon over the building's lifecycle by 20%

The office space is a great place for people to work. The seven-storey building includes a glass atrium, basement car and bicycle parking, and a link to the Grade II listed Generator Building, adjacent.

The building has also been future-proofed through a number of measures.

The first was achieved through our completion of a climate change adaptation and resilience strategy. This evaluated the potential effects of climate change and the impact of extreme weather conditions, allowing us to consider these in the design and build.

Secondly, we took into consideration that the function of a building may not stay the same throughout the lifespan of a building. In the design phase of this project, we considered how it could be quickly and easily adapted to meet changing needs, such as the introduction of multi-tenant occupancy, or even the building changing into a hotel or residential units.

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