When will we have sustainable office buildings?

On Thursday I attended the New London Architecture conference about the City of London and its new office buildings. Presentations by developers showed how they have to guess what the market wants; presentations by architects and engineers showed how they are trying to make buildings more energy efficient and sustainable.

Of course, there’s a mismatch. Too many new buildings in the City still have the in-vogue floor to ceiling glazed facades – and then lots of clever stuff such as photovoltaic cells to improve BREEAM ratings. A bit like converting your Range Rover to biofuel, when you’d be better off driving a much more economical vehicle. There was a questionmark over how those who choose corporate locations come to their decisions, with the revelation that most office workers prefer not to be in air-conditioned boxes. And, as one of the engineers pointed out, in a few years we might all be using electric vehicles in the city, doing away with fumes and noise that are currently excuses for having sealed windows.

The developers said they would prefer to knock down and rebuild, while the building professionals said refurbishment could be more sustainable overall. And it is the predominant existing building stock that is torching through energy and leaving occupiers with high running costs. Hopefully occupiers will start to rent buildings having taken a much more detailed look at how much they will cost to run.

Of course, their efforts to go green are all in vain, if the office occupiers switch all the lights on first thing in the morning, and then leave them all on right into the evening.

More on the conference in my report in the next edition of City Planning newsletter.

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