Grass ceiling: How corporate culture is going green

It's got intelligent lighting, low-energy air-con and London's biggest living roof. But this is no eco charity HQ


In central London there is a lawn of luscious green, in which insects merrily scurry. Feeding on them are birds, which can nest nearby in specially installed wooden boxes. They are observed by office workers eight storeys above ground level, where a view of Saint Paul's Cathedral matches any vista in the capital.

This glorious scene takes place on the top floor of the recently completed headquarters of law firm Eversheds. The building, contrary to what you might expect from a conventional office block for grey-suited solicitors, is one of the greenest in the capital. In this edifice, there are no swathes of air conditioning units and energy-wasting lighting. Instead, the office has the biggest green roof in London and features an abundance of other eco-friendly features. The £11m landmark joins a host of other environmentally sensitive office buildings springing up all over the country.

The idea to make One Wood Street green was spearheaded by Eversheds' senior partners, according to the building's project manager, Gareth Griffiths, of construction consultancy Capita Symonds. "It was a conscious decision to enhance the green credentials of the building because the consensus in the City is that we have to be responsible members of society," he says. "Offices are a significant contributor to carbon dioxide emissions because of their high energy consumption. A high-profile firm such as Eversheds can make a considerable impact on that. Additionally, the environment is becoming an important issue to clients, and so having an office which follows green ideals leads by example."

The green roof, which can be visited by employees on request, is made of a spongy roll of the succulent plant, sedum. It is durable and needs no watering. "Mud baths" will be added, to encourage a roof-level "mini-ecosystem" in which insects provide food for birds. It is hoped the bird boxes will attract peregrine falcons – which have nested at nearby Tate Modern – swifts, and redstarts.

Such eco-consciousness is proving popular with employees. Bo Kehinde, a solicitor at the company says: "The green roof is wonderful to be associated with. Up there it is quite tranquil. The sedum is low and soft to walk on and it is a peaceful place."

The building's designer, Ray Holden of Fletcher Priest Architects, says green roofs are increasingly becoming a coveted addition to modern offices. "Roofs are often wasted spaces. It is a whole floor that people build that is never normally used," he explains. "But we can be more responsible as designers by using them in a green way. Conventional roofs absorb a large amount of heat, making London hotter. But because green roofs are full of water, which evaporates when heated, they make the city a lot cooler. And they also bring in wildlife."

But "greenness" is not confined to the roof at One Wood Street. Clever gizmos are peppered across all of the building's 160,000 square feet. These minimise power consumption and include intelligent lighting, which senses when people are absent from the office floor and switches itself off accordingly. And "Chilled beams" – long oblongs of hollow metal containing water, provide an energy-efficient method of cooling, having no moving parts. Indeed, it is so quiet with the beams, compared with the hum of air conditioning, that artificial noise is pumped into the Eversheds HQ. This is to muffle conversations – an important factor if confidential deals are being discussed. But the open plan design also means less power is used. Instead of many rooms, each with their own lighting and temperature controls, there is just one.

One Wood Street is at the forefront of a wave of offices winning or set to win plaudits for their environmental credentials. They include another office by Fletcher Priest, London's Watermark Place, also in the City, to be finished next year, which also will boast a large green roof. And then there is the new headquarters for PricewaterhouseCoopers, to be built on the More London development, next to Tower Bridge, by 2010. While it doesn't have a green roof, it will have hot water heating by solar energy.

These projects will join the National Trust's headquarters in Swindon (which is naturally ventilated) and the Wessex Water building in Bristol, which uses a third of the energy normally consumed by an office building. Its makes use of solar power and minimises artificial heating.

"Sustainability has gripped the office community, I have never known anything like it," says Richard Kauntze, chief executive of the British Council for Offices, which advises on best practice for designers, operators and managers. "It's what everyone is talking about. The buildings we live and work in use massive amounts of energy. There is a real desire to change and a clear acceptance that the way offices have been designed and managed cannot continue. The bigger challenge is with existing buildings. Computers, lights and heating should all be reduced; that can make a big difference and can cost very little."

Turf at the top

1. The Office Group, Gray's Inn Road, London

A green roof for meetings or lunch, and provides a useful habitat for insects. Also features an outdoor classroom for children from the local area.

2. Norfolk Community Primary School, Sheffield

Built as a condition of planning permission due to storm-water overflow problems. The roof has lowered the likelihood of vandalism, and improved rainwater management.

3. Moorgate Crofts Business Centre, Rotherham

When the business centre's management decided they wanted conference rooms on the roof, a green roof was used to create sustainable surroundings.

For more information on green roofs see

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law

footballChelsea 6 Maribor 0: Blues warm up for Premier League showdown with stroll in Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
Life and Style

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
Those who were encouraged to walk in a happy manner remembered less negative words
Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Sudan, the last male northern white rhino
environmentThe death of a white northern rhino in Kenya has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth