Pioneering Camden public offices shows King’s Cross Central how to embed sustainability at the outset

Five Pancras Square has set a benchmark to the rest of the multibillion pound King’s Cross Central development by becoming the first building to gain a BREEAM Outstanding rating for world-class sustainability. The mixed-use building developed by Camden Council is also the first BREEAM Outstanding project to incorporate a leisure centre and library as well as several floors of offices.

The new headquarters of Camden Council is not only an important urban sustainability exemplar in its own right, it has also set the bar for other buildings across King’s Cross Central, two others of which have also achieved BREEAM Outstanding ratings. The diverse and exciting project recently added to its long list of awards by being crowned the winner of the 2016 BREEAM Awards in the Mixed Use/Other category, against some impressive international competition.

For Camden Borough the project had a clear objective for the building to be the focal point of face-to-face customer access and to enhance services provided to residents. Towards this aim, Five Pancras Square brings the majority of Council services and office based staff into one place, groups them around the customer journey and helps the council collaborate more efficiently within the organisation and with partners. Despite the constrained site, spaces have been created within the building by architect Bennetts Associates to provide break-out areas to facilitate the council becoming more creative, innovative and productive.

The 20,400m2 building maximises its site footprint, providing two public swimming pools and a leisure centre catering for all ages and abilities, plus a council customer access centre, library and a café in addition to the council’s offices. The council had a planning requirement of achieving BREEAM Excellent as a minimum, however the project team including consultant Grontmij set a goal of BREEAM Outstanding which the project achieved gaining 97.6 per cent of the available credits.

The 13-storey building is located in a high profile position close to St Pancras International and King’s Cross station, which enabled it to score highly on transport connections within BREEAM’s sustainability criteria. The King’s Cross Central development is also served by 14 bus routes and an 800 space bicycle park and hire facility.

The wide-ranging BREEAM sustainability assessment itself provided a key means to achieving the project goals, as a framework for identifying relevant criteria, benchmarking and establishing and agreeing many design decisions and innovations. Setting down that framework early in the project and monitoring progress on all criteria was crucial not only to ensuring the Outstanding rating was achieved, but also that increases in costs were minimised. Everyone involved in delivering the project was made aware of their role in delivering on the sustainability targets, and council staff and FM managers were educated in the building’s operation to produce long-term efficiencies via a ‘soft landings’ approach in the run up to the building’s opening in July 2014.

Environmental features focused on passive and active design principles which avoid complicated engineering solutions and associated controls, in order to enable the building to be simple and efficient to operate. Rather than overengineer facades to counteract solar gain which would be alleviated once an adjacent office building was completed, glazing was maximised to increase daylight entering the building and reduce reliance on artificial lighting. Daylight also penetrates the building through its glazed central atrium, and a series of cut-in balconies recessed into the facade on lower floors. Angled vertical fins on the north-western elevation minimise solar gain from the late evening sun but maximise daylighting into the building.
                                                            
Further passive design features include displacement ventilation, aided by high floor ceiling heights, and augmented by an underfloor supply to office floors and library. Natural ventilation is facilitated by openable windows at office levels to offset cooling requirements. High level windows are opened by the Building Management System when in natural ventilation mode or to purge heat from the building’s exposed concrete thermal mass overnight. Five Pancras Square has the UK’s first modular air-cooled chiller system to incorporate intelligent Hitachi control to achieve the capacity mix needed in order to deliver the high seasonal efficiency targets required for BREEAM Outstanding.

Heat for Five Pancras Square is provided by the King’s Cross Central district heating network, whose CHP engines provide 72 per cent of the site’s annual heating demand. The building also has LED fittings for all back of house lighting, extensive sub-metering, and solar PV. Further key reasons for its Outstanding rating were a commitment to minimise construction waste and divert waste from landfill, use responsibly sourced materials, and employ Life Cycle Analysis to identify internal finishes and materials with high durability and longevity.

Consistent delivery on the sustainability criteria throughout the project was assisted immensely by the inclusion of a BREEAM Accredited Professional within the team. Regularly attending client and BREEAM progress meetings on site they helped ensure that all commitments made at design stage were being implemented throughout the construction phase. This together with proactive collaboration between client and project team saw the design stage score of 93.05 per cent increased to 97.6 per cent for final certification.

Councillor Theo Blackwell, Cabinet Member for Finance and Technology Policy at Camden Council said:

“Working to the BREEAM standard has enabled us to deliver a fantastic new public offices and leisure complex in the heart of London.”
“It is the embodiment of our commitment to a focus on long-term sustainability in the way we deliver services in the future and saves the taxpayer money every day in running costs.”
“The project, which was funded by selling inefficient old buildings, is an important part of the regeneration of King’s Cross.”

For more information on BREEAM visit: www.breeam.com

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