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Sustainability, functionality and great design - London

Online since 2.02.2015 • Filed under Advertorials • From Volume 3 - 2015
Sustainability, functionality and great design - London
How does a mature, developed city such as London deal with the needs of sustainable development versus the needs of a growing economic sector? The Leadenhall Building, aptly nicknamed the Cheesegrater, is one of several new sustainable buildings in the heart of London’s business district. SA Building Review’s contributing editor visited the completed site.

Words by Gareth Griffiths
Photos by Gareth Griffiths Imaging

Construction of this dynamic and unusual building located in the heart of London’s business district commenced on September 9, 2011. It was opened to tenants during the second half of 2014.
The Leadenhall Building (Leadenhall) is located at 122 Leadenhall Street. Situated in an area of extraordinary commercial development in the Aldgate and Bishopsgate districts, it’s immediately evident from street level the extent to which off-site modular construction has taken hold.
The ‘Inside Out’ building in Lime Street, across from the Leadenhall building, houses Lloyds of London.
Completed in 1986, the Lloyds Building starkly contrasts it newer cousin across the street. Of course this building is strikingly different in itself, and designed along the architectural principles of Bowellism, where services are located outside the building to maximise habitable space inside (think the Pompidou Centre, Paris). Nearby, another entirely different but striking building at 30 St Mary Axe Street, ‘The Gherkin’, was completed in 2003.
The Leadenhall was developed as a joint venture by British Land, one of Europe’s largest Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs), and Oxford Properties. The latter is a global investor, developer and property manager. The architect was Graham Stirk of Rogers Stirk Harbour and Partners. At present, Leadenhall provides the highest office space in the City of London. The contract was undertaken by Laing O’Rourke, a multi-disciplinary international construction and engineering firm.

Sustainability cuts across the multiple disciplines of green building but also includes heritage and caring for people. The principle of the developers is that a sustainable approach is essential in the delivery of high quality buildings. As such, design and engineering elements were deliberately chosen to make efficient use of energy and resources.
The writer’s view from outside, was that the designers went out of their way to make the building welcoming and people-friendly. Under the enormous overhang of the building at pavement level is the galleria and this currently houses a highly-informative display aimed at educating visitors about the project and the building’s sustainability.
The building is supported by 16 inclined columns and braces, which create this large user-friendly area of open space, reaching 28m. Once fully completed, the area will run underneath the building allowing a new walkway from Bishopsgate through to Leadenhall Street – used by thousands of pedestrians each day.
The design team had to tread carefully because all around the neighbourhood are elements of London’s rich and ancient history. These are listed buildings that occupy high status in the history of the City, which can’t simply be ignored. The juxtaposition of early millennium church buildings with the new feats of architecture and developing sites is breathtaking.

The how
Just how did the designers of the Leadenhall approach the matter of sustainability?
Paramount was the need to preserve the cityscape that includes the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral. The designer’s response was immediate. To create the building shaped as a vertical wedge (cheesecutter) so that the view of the dome of St Pauls from its principle viewing spot on Fleet Street to the West was unaffected. In fact, the building seems to ‘lean away’ from the dome.
According to the developers, ‘The Leadenhall Building’s sloping south face slots neatly into the pace to the left of Wren’s iconic dome, leaning deferentially away from it to avoid encroaching on the world-famous view. As any developer looking to build upwards in the City soon learns, protecting the view of St Paul’s is paramount. But in the case of The Leadenhall Building, that restriction, far from limiting the architects’ creativity, acted as the springboard to an ingenious solution. Unusually for a tower, there is no central core. The strength of the building is all in the megaframe – the muscular, wedge-shaped framework of steel triangles that houses the office floors. With light flooding in from three sides, and minimal pillars, those offices offer unparalleled flexibility for occupiers, as well as breathtaking views south, east and west over the City, the River Thames and beyond.’ (Source:
www.theleadenhallbuilding.com) Large scale design stage sustainable features also include:
• Prefabrication meant the on-site workforce could be reduced to half the number of people required to build a large building of this nature. This streamlined the construction process and reduced the risk of accidents. In addition, the employment possibilities created by a project of this size were spread beyond the city to the areas where the prefabrication sites were located and where work as presumably most needed.
• Design and engineering elements have been deliberately chosen to make efficient use of energy and resources.
• The building as a triple-layer glass shell, which is key to its thermal sustainability. The outer layer of glass is separated from an inner layer of double-glazing by a cavity containing blinds that respond to the sun’s
movement, keeping the office space comfortably cool throughout the working day.
• The external glazing incorporates vents at every seventh storey, allowing air to flow freely around the cavity. This minimises the need for HVAC, which is most frequently the highest energy demand item in any office building.
• Monitoring systems are in place to ensure resources are managed efficiently on an ongoing basis. There are 293 energy meters placed through the building and these monitor usage.
• The building minimises its water usage – it has low-flow water fixtures and fittings.
• Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DfMA) approach – this elective approach where components of the building are manufactured offsite
– emphasises the elimination of material waste using efficient material sourcing, design, engineering and manufacturing technologies. DfMA increases the quality of materials and installations, reduces waste to almost zero, and significantly decreases deliveries to site, avoiding air pollution and congestion, minimising embodied energy and carbon. Evidence from independent environmental monitoring suggests such embodied energy and carbon is typically half that of projects built using traditional methods.
According to the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, ‘The Leadenhall Building is the latest landmark to grace London’s iconic skyline, demonstrating our city’s ability to design and construct world-class architecture. This ambitious project has created jobs in London and across the UK, supporting great British manufacturing all over the country’.
Although climate and economic factors differ between the UK and South Africa, there are surely some sound sustainability principles that are common between the two economies?

Strong steel mega frame and bolts at the Leadenhall
According to the professional team, the mega frame of the building was constructed at specialist steelworks in northern England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. It is divided into eight sections, each of which is 28m high and comprises seven floors (apart from the first section that contains five).
The steel columns and beams are connected by nodes that transfer forces of up to 6 000 tonnes, while nearly 3 000 megabolts (threaded steel rods) connect all the steel parts together. These mega bolts are stretched (pre-stressed) before being installed so that completely rigid joints are created. This type of construction is more commonly used for bridges and offshore oil rigs. Lifting the steel frame sections into position required cranes that could lift up to 45 tonnes. However, the heaviest-duty crane available had a maximum load of 32 tonnes, so two new cranes were manufactured especially for the construction of the Leadenhall Building.

Gareth Griffiths is SA Building Review’s Editor at Large and undertook this investigation while on a recent trip to London.
Further photography taken by him that features this burgeoning business district can be view at

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