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The story behind Arup's low carbon office for post-pandemic working

30 March 2022

The engineering company explains how it collaborated during a difficult time to build an office for the future.

The story behind Arup's low carbon office for post-pandemic working
Arup director Tim Chapman at the roof garden of 80 Charlotte Street, London. Image credit: Tim Chapman

After two years of disruption and uncertainty, the world’s cities are beginning to thrive once again.

Recent research shows workplace traffic at the end of 2021 was 41% higher on average than it was at the beginning of that year.

Urban living is also witnessing a comeback, with research showing February 2022 marked the biggest month-on-month leap in 20 years in UK house prices, with renewed interest in London properties driving the rise.

As cities become increasingly attractive places to live and work, it's vital that workplaces encourage employees back to the office to ensure this enthusiasm is maintained.

Research shows the majority of organisations are already investing in their office space, with 58% investing more in the workplace in 2021 compared to 2020.

Simultaneously, businesses are continuing to tackle the escalating climate crisis – identified repeatedly as the single biggest perceived global risk.

It's the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry’s responsibility to encourage this return to cities and lead by example through the optimisation of workspaces that align with hybrid working models.

For Arup, this has involved re-establishing its presence in London.

It's moved into its new premises at 80 Charlotte Street, which it's transformed to showcase its multi-disciplinary approach and the ability to support decarbonisation over time.

Arup London office building

Arup's office at 80 Charlotte Street, London. Image credit: Arup/Paul Carstairs

Constructing a building during the pandemic

80 Charlotte Street marks the first major hybrid working office to be completed post-pandemic.

It reimagines how integrated, efficient design can meet the needs of ever-changing working styles as Arup continues to address contemporary challenges to help those living and working in urban areas thrive.

Not only has the building been designed specifically to consider how to serve its users most effectively, but the project itself required a new way of working during its creation, having been designed and constructed amid multiple lockdowns and restrictions.

From extensive coordination, to enabling teams working remotely to witness commissioning and carry out site observations, the project has paved the way for a new model for AEC working practices in a post-pandemic world.

These unique insights in turn informed the design of the building, which now boasts an amenity-rich workspace with an inherent focus on how employees connect with their building.

From a roof terrace and ‘pocket park’ for wellbeing breaks, to a visible staircase in reception to promote activity, the building benefits its tenants at every interaction.

Roof terrace of Arup's London office, 80 Charlotte Street

The roof terrace at Arup's 80 Charlotte Street office. Image credit: Arup

It also boasts SMART activity-based working models, meaning 80 Charlotte Street truly unites form and function to maximise the wellbeing of its users, creating a workspace that reflects current working models and premeditates future ones.

Designed for efficiency and sustainability

Sustainability and energy optimisation have been essential in the design and operations of 80 Charlotte Street, aligning with Arup’s commitment to reach net zero across its global operations by 2030.

A key decision made back in 2009 along with Derwent, the building’s developer – ahead of its time – that the building would be all-electric, has ensured it offers a future-focused working environment.

In fact, it's now classed as the first all-electric building in London.

In addition, the electricity will be purchased from ringfenced renewable sources and 80m2 of solar thermal panels will pre-heat domestic water.

Further forward-thinking in 2009 on electric vehicle usage also influenced the building’s ‘mixed mode’ ventilation.

This ensures that when the windows are open, the air conditioning automatically switches off at the perimeter to reduce operational energy.

Both the atria and reception are also naturally ventilated, with ribbon ducting on each floor surrounding the atrium distributing fresh air to the office floors.

The project boasts one of the largest heat pump projects in London, converting recycled waste to heat via polyvalent pumps, which return up to 20% of otherwise rejected heat to the building.

To further optimise energy efficiency, the building’s glass façade optimises daylight and minimises solar gain.

In addition, its air-tight structure minimises leakage, while ensuring optimum performance of the central plant system.

Future working practices

The past two years have shown us that our cities, and the people and businesses they serve, are more fluid than ever before.

This provides the AEC industry with an exciting opportunity to innovate and collaborate to continue developing buildings that instil future-gazing at their core.

Buildings must not only be flexible in how they address and mitigate the impacts of climate change, but must now also be prepared for ever-changing living and working practices.

To keep pace, the industry must work together to adapt its own working practices.

It needs to learn from a multitude of projects, such as 80 Charlotte Street, with Arup’s fit-out designed and installed over the past two tumultuous years.

  • Tim Chapman, Partner and Director at Boston Consulting Group