A climate of fear?

December 20, 2013 admin

12-20 blog PwCIt is possible to be 100 percent green. It was reported this week that a refurbishment of the nine-story headquarters of PwC — another accounting firm rebranding like EY/Ernst & Young; PwC, you know who that is, don’t you? — at One Embankment Place in London achieved a 96.31 percent BREEAM Outstanding score, including 100 percent scores for materials, transport and management. Apart from asking how did they measure it, and how much did it cost them, you also have to wonder — where do they go from here, and can they keep it up?

PwC’s BREEAM Outstanding score is the highest ever achieved for both newbuild and existing structures. The firm’s London headquarters is a 450,000-square-foot office building that was built in the early 1990s; it comprises nine floors of office space above Charing Cross railway station just north of the River Thames and a basement below. A landmark building, it nevertheless presents operational and technical challenges. PwC recognized that the working area was outdated and inefficient and wanted the refurbishment to address these issues and more. Achievement of a high BREEAM environmental rating and a top Energy Performance Certificate score were seen as priorities.

Being green — and being seen to be green — doesn’t come cheap, especially when you have to work round the staff who are continuing to work in the building. The refurbishment contract involved a complete office refit and refurbishment as well as full central plant replacement in the basement areas, roof and terraces while the 2,000 staff remained in occupation.

Sustainability was built into the design from the outset, and PwC engaged energy consultants to develop options for achieving its target high BREEAM rating. The program included installation of biofuel combined cooling heat and power (CCHP), with absorption chillers using biofuel sourced from locally collected and refined waste vegetable oil. Through a knowledge transfer partnership between PwC and London South Bank University — and as evidence of how seriously those involved in this sustainability business take these things — “the biofuel is certified to EN14214, making it a clean, carbon-neutral resource with A-rated energy performance.”

Other features include green walls and landscaped garden planting, waterless urinals and low-flush toilets, comprehensive metering strategy and building management systems, an interactive screen in reception confirming building energy usage, and a staircase installed within the atria to promote vertical movement without the use of lifts. Some of this may seem obvious, but it all counts. And it all costs.

“The impressive BREEAM score for this iconic building shows just how much can be accomplished,” says Gavin Dunn, director of BREEAM.

The plaudits are due. It is possible to be totally green, and it is possible, too, that the aggregation of all these efforts around the world will one day seep into the human consciousness and save the planet. PwC has done it now, but can it do it again?

And the climate of fear? The image, surely, that is evoked of PwC’s green guards walking around the building, making sure that the staff who work there keep up the sustainability effort. They will also be looking for the missing 3.69 percent.

RichardFlemingRichard Fleming is editor of The Institutional Real Estate Letter – Europe.

Previous Article
Year-end reflections
Year-end reflections

As 2013 draws to a close, I’ve been thinking a lot about the discussions we’ve...

Next Article
Have the floodgates opened?
Have the floodgates opened?

Since the Abe administration took power in Japan in December 2012, there have been...