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Wednesday23 July 2014

FOA shatters Part L hopes

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The ability of Part L of the building regulations to cut carbon emissions was thrown into serious doubt this week with the unveiling of a fully glazed, 900,000sq m City office development by Foreign Office Architects.

The designs were met with dismay by environmental consultants, with Ian Smith, a partner in leading sustainable engineering practice Max Fordham, branding them "irresponsible, outdated and inappropriate".

Earlier designs for the scheme using less glazing were changed following pressure from agents. When asked by a female member of BD how the development would meet Part L, the agent, Tony Gibbon, a partner in BH2, said: "I'm about as interested in that as you probably are in football."

But FOA director Alejandro Zaero-Polo insisted that new technology meant fully glazed buildings were still a viable option despite the introduction of Part L in April this year, which aimed to cut carbon emissions from buildings by 28%, and that the nineties-style "glass box" office was not dead. Fully glazed offices emit up to 10% more carbon than 75% glazed schemes.

He admitted there was pressure from the market to develop fully glazed schemes, but said the decision to do so in this case was taken by the architects, who wanted to create a cluster of crystals.

"In my experience, tenants want fully glazed office buildings and obviously developers and agents are very sensitive to these requirements," he said. "In this case, the aesthetic was the determinant in producing a fully glazed facade - it was not something that our client forced us to do."

He said the scheme met Part L by using technologies to limit carbon emissions, and by meeting 15% of its total energy needs from on-site renewable sources.

Nick Cullen, a partner in engineering consultant Hoare Lea, said: "As with nearly all buildings, it can be made to pass Part L [but] clearly there are more energy efficient/lower carbon ways to design buildings."

The £700 million scheme, next to Aldgate tube station on the eastern edge of the City of London, for developer Beetham Organisation, will be submitted to the City of London planning department in the next few weeks. It proposes 900,000sq m of office space in three buildings, the tallest of which will rise to 22 storeys. There will be a glazed public plaza through the centre.

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