Walking in the sunshine to CSC’s new London offices in Kings Cross, it’s hard to believe that this whole area was once so run down it was considered a no-go area by many Londoners.
Thanks to a decade-long regeneration project, this 67 acre site is now a vibrant, leafy community of offices, homes, parks, eateries and shops. By 2020, 45,000 people are expected to be working, living and studying here.
Built around a green framework, 40 percent of the site is given over to open space and with the Regent’s Canal flowing through the heart of the site, you’d be forgiven for forgetting that you’re in one of Europe’s busiest cities.
It certainly makes for a colorful, not to mention relaxing walk to the new CSC office at One Pancras Square, which is rated as ‘outstanding’ against BREEAM, the world’s longest established method of assessing, rating and certifying the sustainability of commercial buildings.
Although I decided to walk to the site, had I taken the Tube, I would have been able to exit directly into One Pancras Square itself. With two major mainline train stations, including Eurostar, a short walk away, the site is one of the best connected in the capital and certainly ticks the box in terms of sustainable transport.
Once inside I’m met by Lydia Dutton, the sites’ environmental project manager who tells me more about the building. We start with the subject of energy.
“Energy efficiency is an important consideration for us all, delivering as it does, lower costs and reducing greenhouse gas emissions” Lydia said, “which is why all of the buildings on the site are part of what we call the King’s Cross district-wide energy system. It’s essentially a centralized combined heat and power Energy Centre that provides close to 100 percent of the development’s heat and hot water needs.
Lydia added, “Sharing resources in this way is far more efficient than installing separate systems in each building.” As we walk, I learn that One Pancras Square has an A rating for energy performance.
I asked Lydia about the green walls I’d seen on my walk to the office. “We have 200m of green wall installed on the site,” Lydia told me, “They not only look beautiful – a wall filled with plants is always more attractive than plain concrete, but they have very practical benefits too. They help insulate the building, dampen noise pollution, sequester carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and provide food sources for pollinators.”
In many ways, sustainability is about looking at what we can do now in order to prepare for the future, which is why spare capacity has been designed into the site’s network of pipes, cables and fiber optics. This means that they can be easily upgraded to meet future demand with minimal disruption to the occupants and without resource intensive renovations.
I ask Lydia about the pitfalls of trying to design for an unknown and ever-changing future. “The regeneration here is one of the largest in Europe and has spanned a decade. As with any project on this scale, flexibility and adaptation are absolutely key. For example, when the plans were first submitted, we intended to use renewable energy from wind turbines on site, but as the science and legislation moved on, we were able to work with the local council to amend the plans around solar instead.”
There are so many ingeniously clever, yet simple ways that sustainability has been built into the development of the site that it’s a topic we will have to return to in future posts. What does strike me is the coherence of the project and the way that it, quite rightly, takes a wide lens approach to sustainability – one that not only looks to minimize negative environmental impacts, but puts people squarely at the heart of equation. That’s certainly special in my book.