1D: Offices and Tenements

The Future of Office Design, Kate Dougherty (WSP UK)

The climate crisis and the Covid-19 pandemic have created a perfect storm, changing people’s attitudes to offices and focussing the industry on radically rethinking how buildings consume energy and how they are ventilated.

For a long time we have been designing offices that are essentially glass boxes that face the sun and are packed with people and equipment. This has demanded that they use significant amounts of energy to heat, cool and ventilate the space and maintain the closely controlled internal conditions that occupiers have come to expect. 

But that approach has reached the end of the road. The London Energy Transformation Initiative (LETI) targets an energy use of 55 kWh/m2 for office buildings if we’re to achieve net zero. Today, a typical office building uses four to five times this amount.

WSP believe that we need to approach office design in a completely different way. Referencing our research and real project case studies, we will set out how net zero carbon targets can be met through an innovative approach to the design of facades, lighting and HVAC and more. In addition to this, we will discuss the need to ‘challenge the brief’ if we have any chance of moving towards a net zero carbon built environment. 

Learning From a Tenement Retrofit in Glasgow: A Cost Benefit Analysis, Prof. Ken Gibb (Urban Studies, University of Glasgow) and Anthony Higney (University of Stirling)

A critical part of the strategy to decarbonise heating and homes in Scotland is to tackle the older existing housing stock. Perhaps the most challenging large-scale aspect of that strategy is to deal with pre-1919 tenement housing. There are more than 75,000 units of this iconic form of housing in Glasgow.

This paper is concerned with a Scottish funding Council funded evaluation of a deep benefit retrofit of a single tenement close comprised of eight one-bedroom flats in the south side of the city. The retrofit is of a housing association’s empty and newly acquired tenement block. The work is funded by the Housing Association, Glasgow City Council and Scottish Government and evolves a close partnership with John Gilbert Architects. The evaluation is multidimensional and involves a technical performance assessment led by Tim Sharpe from the University of Strathclyde as well as an evaluability assessment, a process-based decision-making analysis of key project decisions, a behavioural assessment of tenants and their energy consumption once they move into the improved property, and a comprehensive cost benefit analysis of the project complete with counterfactual alternatives.

After showing a video about the project and its evaluation, the paper is primarily focused on the initial findings of the cost benefit analysis, how it was designed, how it relates to existing carbon-based estimates of costs and benefits, issues over data and constructing the analysis and the sense of the broad parameters and sensitivity of the work. We locate this analysis within the broader retrofit project, its evaluation and also the wider lessons that can be learned for the broader retrofit project for pre-1919 tenements in the city.