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Steel supporting air quality drive

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Imagine having the opportunity to make a simple design decision that would give a building carbon savings equivalent to a gas and electricity emission free operation for 26 years. And at the same time as adding three storeys to an existing five-storey office block.

That is being achieved at British Land’s 1 Triton Square development on the north side of London’s Euston Road, as you can read in this issue of NSC. The existing concrete-framed building was no longer attractive to modern commercial tenants and would usually have been heading for demolition. But by deciding to use steel for a vertical expansion the design team was able to redevelop the originally concrete-framed structure to allow the reuse of materials including some 1,900 tonnes of steel.

Some innovative strengthening of the existing structure along with the extra floors almost doubled the building’s internal area, increasing its all-important lettable space. As you can read, this was only possible using steel.

For the client, sustainability was more of an attraction of this solution than cost savings, something we can expect to hear more of. The world is growing ever more environmentally conscious, and one of the key areas of concern is the impact of emissions on air quality, especially in cities. Much of these emissions arise from traffic fumes and political attention is being driven by public concerns towards finding solutions like emission control zones, promoting electric vehicles and phasing out diesel vehicles.

But improving air quality will involve more than attacking traffic emissions, and buildings are well known to be major producers of emissions through their embodied carbon as well as their lighting, heating and air conditioning. Public and political attention is turning ever more closely to the air quality impact of buildings and design-led solutions like Triton Square will have a big part to play in delivering improvements.

Embodied carbon savings from projects like Triton Square may have little direct impact on local air quality but globally all of these carbon savings will add up, and they will have to be achieved as a matter of routine.

When strong environmental credentials can be delivered alongside cost-effective developments with the sort of modern, aesthetically pleasing environments that steel construction routinely provides, the case for steel has been made.

Other benefits of steel that we see deployed to great effect in this month’s NSC include the 18 Hanover Square development, which sits on top of Bond Street station on the new Elizabeth Line, or Crossrail. Here, a late request by a tenant to have an atrium included as part of the design was easily accommodated by the steelwork contractor redesigning the fabrication programme while avoiding delays to the overall scheme.

In Salford, 100 Embankment is providing BREEAM ‘Excellent’ offices on a former railway station site, reinvigorating the area where Salford meets Manchester, overlooking Manchester Cathedral. In line with the increasing trend of building owners and designers to show off the fact that their frames are steel, the client has asked for the entire steel frame to be exposed, creating an office environment in keeping with the area’s industrial heritage. Steel may be selected for a variety of reasons, but wherever you see a steel frame you’ll know that it was also the environmental choice.

Nick Barrett

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Click on the cover to view this month's issue as a digimag.