Camden's local government services hub goes green

The building holds offices, leisure facilities and public access to information about their services. Photograph: BennettsThe building holds offices, leisure facilities and public access to information about their services. Photograph: Bennetts

The London borough of Camden and Bennetts Associates Architects have pushed the boundaries of inner city sustainability by creating an ambitious new mixed-use building at no cost to the public.

Located at the heart of King’s Cross, Europe’s largest regeneration project, 5 Pancras Square is one of the first buildings of its kind to be honoured with an “outstanding” rating by world-leading assessment body BREEAM. Officially unveiled in July 2014, the £123m development combines four levels of offices with public entrance, two swimming pools, a library, café and gym with ten floors of council offices. This integration is helping to reduce the council’s environmental footprint, foster improved ways of working among employees and better serve the local community.

5 Pancras Square is one of the main projects of Camden council’s “green action for change” strategy. The council aims to achieve a 40% reduction in CO2emissions by 2020 and an 80% reduction by 2050.

In partnership with Bennetts Associates Architects and a developer, Argent, the council stuck closely to the tenets of its environmental policy when designing the new building and sold £130m of council property to fund the project.

The council adopted simple, robust design techniques that maximised the use of renewable energy, reduced energy use and optimised comfort. The building is highly insulated, well ventilated and captures solar energy through roof-mounted solar panels.

Natural light is maximised, while motion-sensitive LED lights are fitted throughout the building to save energy. Under-floor ventilation recovers heat from the leisure centre and the building is also connected to King’s Cross’s combined heat and power system, further reducing CO2 emissions.

The building features a modular chiller system – the first of its kind in the UK – to help maintain energy efficiency as the seasons change. A green roof helps to control storm water run-off and prevent localised flooding. All taps, showers and toilets have also been fitted with water-saving measures.

Camden council and its partners rigorously assessed the environmental and ethical credentials of construction materials and techniques, sourcing 90% of materials from sustainable sources.

BREAAM gave 5 Pancras Square a score of 93.05% for its design, and the project appears to be on track for a record-breaking post-completion score of 97.12%. The building has also attained a non-domestic energy performance certificate “A” rating.

By moving 76% of the council’s office staff to the new building, the council has shrunk its office carbon footprint by an estimated 64% and will generate energy efficiency cost savings of approximately £500,000 a year. Within a few months of opening the building, it had achieved a 46% reduction in the number of vehicles making deliveries to council buildings, particularly 5 Pancras Square.

With the majority of the council’s employees under one roof, Camden has taken the opportunity to create an improved working culture. The building’s diverse, modern work spaces are intended to foster improved communication and collaboration. Meanwhile, a transition from desktop computers to laptops with instant messaging, and a new digital filing system, are helping to further reduce carbon emissions.

Employees can cycle to work, with cycle racks for 20% of staff nearby and Kings Cross is a public transport hub. Around 3,000 employees made the move in just eight weeks.

Camden consulted local residents and community groups about new services and leisure facilities. This resulted in a swimming pool with a movable floor that can be turned into a community space, and gym equipment designed for those with impaired mobility. The leisure centre has so far attracted more than 4,000 members and 100,000 visits.

The highly visible customer service centre, which provides information about council services, is receiving 1,500 customers a week.

The Guardian judges considered 5 Pancras Square to be an example of Camden council “putting its money where its mouth is”, and recognised Bennetts Associates Architects as an “unsung hero” for its efforts to help clients push the boundaries of sustainability. Bennetts took the design of 5 Pancras Square as far as possible, the judges agreed.

Bennetts Associates Architects is the 2015 winner of the impact award in the built environment category of the Guardian Sustainable Business Awards.


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