We are led through a procession of passageways, slowly working our way down into the basement levels. The passageways are all lit with different coloured bulbs; orange, red, green, purple. The effect is not dissimilar to a submarine control room or an underground bunker. This however is no military craft or installation, far from it, for we are inside one of London’s most innovative buildings. PricewaterhouseCoopers new offices at No.7 More London, a stones throw from Tower Bridge and City Hall, is currently the most environmentally friendly building in the capital.
When you walk through No.7 More London (even in the basement) you are overcome by the revolutionary ideas being implemented. The building is designed to use 40% less energy than any similar office in the city. Sustainability and renewable energy are hot topics in design and architecture, and with growing demands for green alternatives businesses like PricewaterhouseCoopers have been able to develop new innovative ideas about how we use our office spaces and the sourcing of energy required to power them.
‘We’ve always been looking at improving,’ says Jon Barnes, Head of Building and Services Management, PwC. ‘and with our new office we’ve been fortunate enough to design it all from the very beginning. The entire skin of the building is glass so we have a fabulous amount of natural light coming in, 85% of the concrete we used was recycled, we use waste heat to warm and cool the building, we use low energy lighting which can be controlled by each individual in the office, we use single printers on each floor – not like the old days where each computer had its own printer – this has further lessened energy waste and the amount of paper we use, even in the bathrooms we have decided to do away with air blowers and use recycled paper hand-towels instead. The paper comes from our client’s accounts and year-end books. These are securely shredded, then recycled. Everything about this building and how it works is new and fresh.’
Among these groundbreaking concepts the real jewel in the crown lies hidden here in the basement behind a set of ordinary looking doors. At first it appears to be a ship’s engine room, as you step gingerly down on to the metal grated floor you are greeted by a cacophony of noise, dials and electronic readings festoon large pieces of whirring machinery, insulated pipes and cables run along the walls and ceiling, there are ladders leading down to the lower level.
‘These two generators use around 45,000 litres of cooking oil a month,’ says Jon proudly. ‘essentially that’s 100% biofuel, produced and refined locally. This is the largest installation of its type in a commercial office building in the UK and these generators create 25% of the electricity needed for the building, as well as 20% of its heating and cooling. This is a real low carbon alternative to using traditional fuel and it all comes from cooking oil used in the city.’
The sustainability programme in PwC’s new office has been so popular that many of the 5,000 staff that work at No.7 have joined Jon on one of his regular tours of the building. ‘They come because there’s a genuine interest in how we can make things more efficient, more sustainable and green. This enthusiasm and enjoyment translates into the building itself, it has a really nice feel to it, there’s an energy and that makes it a great place to work and do business.’
Up on the roof overlooking Tower Bridge Jon shows us the rubble-roof, a part of the building designed to encourage particular birdlife to nest and breed amongst the rocks. One breed that has faced seriously declining population numbers has been the redstart, a small sprightly bird previously common in the city. The rubble has been developed to recreate the species favourite habitat. However for some months after the buildings completion, there was little sign of this bird arriving and settling.
‘Then one day,’ says Jon. ‘I was taking a tour group around the building, we get up on the roof and dare I say it, there was a redstart. We’ve now got four or five breeding pairs up there now.’