Morelands sits at the junction of Old Street and Goswell in London’s Clerkenwell area, a denizen of architects and media creatives. The Morelands complex comprises a cluster of warehouse buildings built, over three decades, around a U-shaped courtyard.
Constructed between 1905 and 1940, the building provides around 86,000 sq ft of office and retail/ restaurant space. From Allford Hall Monaghan Morris’s (AHMM) first interventions, some 20 years ago, the intention has always been to retain the industrial character of the existing buildings while providing a strong identity for the complex.
The latest works for the client, Derwent London, are a major overhaul of the entire complex; creating a new entrance, refurbishing the 4th floor 850m2 office floorplate and providing improved level access throughout, while significantly enhancing the building energy performance. The final element of this phase was a new 860m2 rooftop penthouse office floorplate. 4th & 5th floor now form AHMMs own offices.
AHMM have been located at Morelands for the past 20 years. The recent move has seen the practices’ 250 London based staff relocate from existing offices, acquired ad hoc and scattered throughout the complex within multiple blocks, to one central head office.
Derwent London is a dynamic developer committed to high-quality design, quality of management and the ability to make better places for people to work in. Because Derwent understands that a high quality working environment attracts good tenants, the client opted in favour of BREEAM accreditation, along with sophisticated, modern spaces and improved amenities. Morelands was the first BREEAM Outstanding office building for both AHMM and Derwent London and reflects the ambition and enthusiasm with which the project was approached.
A benefit of the long standing relationship between AHMM and Derwent is that ‘lessons learnt’ from previous schemes regarding the durability of materials can be applied. White Collar Factory (WCF) – our five-year research project for Derwent London in collaboration with Arup, Davis Langdon and AKT II – begins and ends with the design of generous volumes that maximise natural light and ventilation and minimise materials and energy. An iteration of this project is now built as a micro-hybrid in AHMM’s ‘penthouse loft’ that emerges on top of Morelands, realised with Peter Deer Assoc.
Comprised of a new 5th floor with a full refurbishment of the existing 4th floor; merging four blocks (A-D) to create open plan office space totalling 18,400 sq ft. The result is an aspirational workspace, which retains and extends the old structural frame. Among the works are a light well cut out of the roof to bring light into the centre of the plan above a circulation stair, open-plan project studios over two floors, a large refectory and open-air rooftop amenity.
Morelands was designed to be a ‘laboratory’, a place where AHMM (and others) could experiment with very real ideas. Environmental monitoring equipment exists throughout the building and all occupants can witness how the spaces react (or not) to the external conditions. Live feedback is an inherent part of the continued education of the users and this will allow us to design better and smarter buildings in the future. The simple and low-tech solution do not cost a lot, but they do work.
The building scored particularly well in the Transport, Energy and Pollution sections in part due to maximising its beneficial location in Central London, set back from a main road. Key environmental features are:
Natural cross ventilation and stack effect
A “Passive first” approach to design and servicing has been applied. The offices are naturally ventilated, with low level perimeter windows assisted by high level windows to light wells, to assist in stack effect purge. Low-e coatings were applied to the glass to reduce solar gain, in addition to which, vertical external blinds linked to wind and UV sensors were installed to control light penetration.
Good levels of thermal insulation
Avoiding demolition and disposal of the original structure to construct a replacement resulted in CO2 savings, which contribute to the inherent sustainability of the development. Along with the new 5th floor above, the 4th floor façade was enclosed within a skin of insulation and render achieving a Green Guide rating of A. The render unified the appearance externally and significantly improved the thermal performance of the building, resulting in an improvement to the existing 4th floor of 1.54 W/m² K - exceeding the requirements of Part L.
Airtightness was reviewed throughout construction, as the existing building had evident weak spots at concrete floor to ceiling junctions etc. Final tests of 5.66m3/hr/m² at 50Pa meet 'Good Practice' guidelines.
Very efficient lighting
Lighting is triggered by PIRs, reflecting the office’s occupancy and saving energy.
The new 5th floor has significant height (3.7m floor to ceiling) meaning better daylight penetration and less artificial lighting.
In addition, new lights on occupant-controlled triggers were installed to common parts and courtyards further reducing the electrical load on the building.
PV panels feed into common parts, reducing electricity bills whilst solar thermal panels supply hot water to 4th & 5th floor showers.
Water Saving fittings
Toilets, taps and showers are water-efficient. All in all, 4th & 5th floor saves the equivalent of 78,049 WC flushes per year.
A large area of brown roof has been added, providing a new opportunity for biodiversity on the complex. Swift and swallow boxes have been integrated into the fabric of the building.
Those who cycle now enjoy greatly improved facilities, an important employee incentive, including 45 new secure cycle spaces, showers and changing facilities with an additional two showers and drying rooms to 4th & 5th floors respectively. Two Barclays London cycle-hire sites are situated nearby and the building is extremely well located for public transport connections. There is no car parking on site and a green travel plan has been developed by the client, Derwent London.
Full size mock-ups for the most important elements of the building were produced early to avoid costly and wasteful changes later on. This proved a very successful opportunity to engage the client and we will continue to recommend this on future projects.
As a consequence of occupying the offices ourselves, we have access to a level of data about the scheme scarcely available to architects post completion. Having recorded temperature data in our previous office for several years, we have installed an array of thermal, humidity and C02 detectors throughout the new office. The results from these studies, as well as those reviewing energy and water use, will be fed back to FM team, management and architects to ensure that our own operations are continually refined and improved. We will also be able to apply lessons learned to future projects.
Since moving from 2nd floor to 4th & 5th floors our operating costs have reduced significantly, including a 69% saving in electricity. Additionally, we are currently reporting a 31% efficiency in gas usage, however we appreciate that this will fluctuate with heating demands during the winter months and will require future assessment to fully understand annual economies.
The completed building has been evaluated for quantitative performance metrics as well as qualitative occupant satisfaction. The study comprised of:
A CIBSE TM22 style energy audit was carried out and compared to design stage compliance calculations
A Building User Survey (www.busmethodology.org) was used to assess occupant satisfaction in a longitudinal comparison to a similar survey carried out in the same organisations previous offices.
Temperature, relative humidity and CO2 monitored data from the occupied spaces as well as within the new building fabric provide contextual information for the energy consumption and occupant comfort.
Whilst energy consumption is higher than compliance calculations, the energy end-use analysis shows that this is due to occupant equipment loads not included in regulated energy figures. Per person energy consumption is lower than in our previous office.
Space heating loads are much lower than design stage predictions.
Despite internal temperatures frequently higher than the ‘comfort envelope’ the building occupants are largely satisfied with the space and the conditions. This influences how we design the services for other buildings.
Engaging the thermal mass through night cooling can reduce temperatures by 3-4°C at the start of the working day.
Occupant behaviour in an adaptive building is key to comfort conditions. The relationship between CO2 and temperature is a crucial one and in this building, occupants only engage with the windows when the temperatures are already high. We are actively looking at ways of instigating ventilation earlier in the day to prevent high CO2 and temperatures.
Occupant satisfaction means that perceived productivity has increased by nearly 10%.
Lessons from this study are applied to run the studied building more efficiently as well as to design decisions on current projects.
James Santer, Associate Director at AHMM says
“Certification of Morelands demonstrates the implementation of AHMM & Derwent London’s environmental policies. Derwent London invests in top quality buildings with innovative, engaged tenants who want their employees to thrive in their workplace. AHMM’s own staff, who now occupy Morelands, have responded very positively to the initiatives employed to achieve BREEAM accreditation, as demonstrated in a recent Building User Survey [BUS] which showed a significant improvement in perceived comfort, health and productivity levels when compared to the previous office.”
AHMM & Derwent have remained true to the idea of providing a high quality, multi-tenanted office space that is flexible and truly sustainable.
Morelands was designed to offer an improved experience to visitors and tenants alike. The exterior of the refurbished floors have a highly efficient skin that gives a strong identity to the extension within its context. The offices offer tenants the opportunity to enjoy high quality spaces to carry out varied activities within the workplace. Two light wells promote natural light and a sense of openness rarely seen in office buildings. The office floor plates enjoy expansive views across London, using a simple palette of high quality materials that, combined with careful detailing achieves memorable spaces.
The building is highly energy efficient and achieves the aim of providing a flagship building for AHMM, whilst making the most of an existing building. The project has provided office space over and above the benchmark for high quality commercial environments without superfluous servicing gadgets, leading the way for future phases of development throughout the Morelands complex and promoting the benefits of BREEAM in a simple, attainable way to clients and contractors alike who experience the building when visiting our offices.
The technology employed in this building is nothing new and it’s not smart, but the way in which it has been incorporated with minimal cost has created a really magnificent place to work. It proves that smarter buildings are well designed buildings, not tech-rich but just simpler and more intelligent.