The UK Green Building Council's (UK-GBC) headquarters in central London has achieved the lowest embodied carbon footprint ever recorded for an office refurbishment in the UK.

The project, which was built by Morgan Lovell, is an exemplar for sustainable office refurbishment and also features a range of innovative wellbeing measures, delivering a space that is both better for people, and better for the environment.

UK-GBC hopes that this landmark project will inspire and encourage employers, landlords and occupiers alike to set the bar high when upgrading their office spaces. It demonstrates that even a 160m² floorspace can deliver phenomenal commercial, social and environmental value if each decision is challenged and scrutinised.

The design and delivery team - a collaboration between Morgan Lovell, Barr Gazetas, Cundall and Currie & Brown - worked with a carbon profiling specialist to ensure that opportunities to reuse, recycling and responsible sourcing were maximised.

Key stats:

  • 139 kgCO2/m² - Embodied carbon footprint 22% below a comparable “standard” fit-out and the lowest ever recorded in the UK (SCP database, WRAP database)*
  • 48% decrease in carbon emissions from lighting
  • 99.4% of construction waste diverted from landfill
  • 98% of original fixtures and finishes reused or repurposed

Wellbeing measures have been incorporated into the design in order to improve staff satisfaction, productivity and overall health and wellness. These measures include: a beautiful living wall with over 1,500 plants; an innovative ventilation system, which has delivered a 750% increase in background fresh air provision; an automated low-energy LED lighting system; and products and finishes that minimise (and in some cases actively remove) pollutants from the air.

Peter Weston, managing director of Morgan Lovell in London, commented: “We pride ourselves on being a leader in sustainable fit out, and having completed a project for UK-GBC in the past we know how important responsible construction is to the team. Without our brilliant supply chain, we wouldn’t have been able to achieve such high indoor air quality with low VOCs or the impressive recycling and reuse rates. We had stringent targets to meet onsite and we worked tirelessly to ensure we built a workspace to be proud of.” 

The space is also designed to accommodate a variety of working styles and agile working choices, including an open plan working area based on hot-desking; a sound-proof ‘telephone booth’ for private calls; a height-adjustable standing meeting table and several softer break-out spaces for informal discussions and social interaction. 

Julie Hirigoyen, chief executive of UK-GBC said: "UK-GBC’s purpose is to accelerate the transformation of places so that people and planet can thrive. In refurbishing our own office space, we had a fantastic opportunity to trial and showcase the very best solutions sourced from our membership. I’m delighted at the outstanding results we have achieved – both to minimise our environmental footprint and to improve the wellbeing and productivity of our staff."

Richard Griffiths, head of commercial policy and partnerships for UK-GBC, added: "Morgan Lovell completed our project on time and with a close eye on our tight NGO budget, taking a flexible approach and demonstrating a clear commitment to getting the job done as efficiently and effectively as possible. They entered fully into the spirit of what we were trying to achieve with the project, helping us to deliver the UK’s most low carbon fit out in the process."

In order to maximise the opportunities to learn from this refurbishment, the office will be subject to a post-occupancy evaluation to assess its operational performance against performance factors such as energy efficiency and air quality. Staff satisfaction will be evaluated through ongoing surveys, the results of which will be compared against data collected prior to the refurb. 

UK-GBC will also be producing content designed to help built environment professionals learn from the project, with a focus on how the design team’s innovative and collaborative ways of working meant that the project was able to achieve its ambitious goals.

Details of the suppliers and products used in the refurbishment can be viewed here. Or for more information about UK-GBC, visit www.ukgbc.org

*The SCP database is a proprietary database of embodied carbon in building products used to calculate the total embodied carbon footprint of the fit out. The WRAP Embodied Carbon database is an open access tool which aims to benchmark projects’ embodied carbon calculations.