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PwC aims for BREEAM Outstanding at its iconic London HQ

Turner & Townsend is helping to create one of the most sustainable refurbished buildings in the capital.

PricewaterhouseCoopers has some experience working in highly sustainable buildings: the company’s More London office near Tower Bridge achieved a BREEAM Outstanding rating in 2011 – the first building in London to do so.

Now the company is taking on an even more ambitious task as it attempts to update and retrofit the rest of its estate including its London headquarters at Embankment Place.

The 350,000 sq ft offices have been home to PwC since 1991, and after recently extending its lease on the nine-storey building the company began the retrofit.

The most sustainable refurb in London

“The 1 Embankment refurbishment aims to be the most sustainable refurbished building in London, as it’s also targeting BREEAM Outstanding,” says Turner & Townsend project director Tom Beard.

Turner & Townsend is acting as strategic advisor and project manager on the refit, which involves contract administration, cost management, technological project management and CDCM services, working closely with main contractor Overbury. Turner & Townsend also worked with PwC on its More London offices as strategic advisor.

“We have a long relationship working with PwC including five years as strategic advisor for the More London offices, which achieved BREEAM Outstanding in 2011,” Mr Beard says. “The company has extremely high sustainability credentials and is now rolling this out across its entire estate.”

“We’re governed by the parameters of the existing building – you can’t design away areas, especially on top of Charing Cross station”

Tom Beard, Turner & Townsend

The work at 1 Embankment is a complete overhaul of the building’s internal infrastructure, including refurbishment and fit-out of the offices, decommissioning of existing plant and installation of new central plant and engineering infrastructure, along with a new entrance area.

“It’s a full refurbishment of the office buildings and a Category B fit-out on behalf of the landlord and PwC,” Mr Beard says.

Outstanding aspirations

Achieving BREEAM Outstanding on a new-build office is an extremely challenging task, but one which can at least be incorporated into the design at its earliest stages and considered at every step. Achieving the same score on a refurbished office building is a more challenging task still.

“Refurbishments are about considering what areas you maintain and what areas you replace; in this instance we’ve stripped the internal building back to the shell and core, keeping the cladding, roofing and structure,” Mr Beard says.

There is an assortment of cutting-edge sustainable technologies also incorporated into the refurbishment, including a biodiesel fuelled tri-generation system in the plant rooms, which can also use refined chip fat as an energy source.

The team has been working closely with their BREEAM consultant in order to reach the Outstanding rating required by PwC.

“We’re governed by the parameters of the existing building – you can’t design away areas, especially on top of Charing Cross station, so to reach the highest BREEAM levels we need to make sure we score the right points in the right areas,” Mr Beard says.

“Our BREEAM consultant has helped us target the right areas and offset against the areas we’re not able to touch.”

Phased approach to in-occupation refurbishment

But this project has the added complication that half of the building remains occupied throughout the works. “The project is between half and two-thirds of the way through, and we have just reached a big milestone with the handover of half of the office space,” Mr Beard says.

Following the handover, the work has moved to the other half of the office as part of the phased approach the team devised in order to carry out the work while staff are still present.

“One of the team described it as like doing open heart surgery on a marathon runner, while they are running a marathon!”

Tom Beard, Turner & Townsend

“We created a strategic plan with PwC to meet the programme and cause minimal disruption to the employees within Embankment Place; PwC staff have a day job to do and one of the key areas of our brief was that they would be disrupted as little as possible,” Mr Beard says.

The team also organised site visits for staff to engage them in the work and create a culture of positive feeling about the project. “We staggered delivery of certain areas so they are not out of action for too long; we bring areas back into circulation month by month.”

One area recently reopened was the building’s restaurant, which has been well received by staff and already seen increased revenues compared with the previous canteen.

The detailed phasing of the work is an extremely important aspect of making the in-occupation refurbishment run smoothly, but even with careful planning this still poses challenges. “One of the team described it as like doing open heart surgery on a marathon runner, while they are running a marathon!” Mr Beard recalls.

Working above Charing Cross station

A further complication for this refurbishment is its location: not only based on a tight, central London site, the building is above Charing Cross station and shares its plant room with many of the retail outlets on the same street.

“We had to carry out some out-of-hours work, but because many of the retail businesses around the office run off the same plant room we had to consider this aspect, too,” Mr Beard explains.

“We developed a retail estate strategy, as out-of-hours for retail does not mean the same as out-of -hours for PwC, while the site also supports a nightclub and some bars.”

All of these factors together make for an extremely complex project, but the challenges have not hindered the progress and the refurbishment is on track for completion later this year.

Recycling cooking oil into fuel at More London

PwC’s office at More London uses recycled cooking oil from restaurants, bars, offices and hotels around London as an energy source to provide electricity, heating and cooling for the building.

The oil is collected by Arrow Oil from outlets around London and taken to refinery Uptown Biodiesel, based in Southwark.  

It can then be used at PwC’s tri-generation facility, which uses 100 per cent biofuel, and used to fire two large generators that create 25 per cent of the electricity needed for the building and 20 per cent of the heating and cooling.

Overall, 25 per cent of the energy needed in the building can be generated onsite.

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