DESIGN-LED WORKSPACE specialist TOG (The Office Group) marks the beginning of a new chapter with the launch of The Black & White Building in Shoreditch. The mass-timber building, due to open in Autumn 2022, is the first project that the company has chosen to build from scratch.
Constructed in partnership with sustainable design experts Waugh Thistleton Architects, The Black & White Building is one of the tallest mass-timber office buildings ever built in central London, standing at 17.8 metres. Created using renewable materials and highly innovative construction methods, it is both a landmark in sustainable architecture and a powerful statement of TOG’s commitment to ecologically progressive development.
Co-founder and Co-CEO of TOG, Charlie Green commented, “The Black & White Building represents a major step forward for us, and – I hope – the wider industry too. It’s a statement of who we are and how we will approach sustainability; we don’t need to build the traditional way with concrete and steel anymore. When we do new builds or extensions, we’ll build this way.” – Charlie Green, co-founder and co-CEO, TOG.
Built for the World of Tomorrow
The Black & White Building launches at a time when businesses are looking inwards and considering their impact on the planet more deeply and sincerely than ever before. More and more companies are seeking sustainable certification, and even those that aren’t are pursuing ESG measures to cut carbon and operate more sustainably. The business case for sustainability has never been more compelling.
With the race to net-zero gathering pace, and the 2022 IPCC report explicitly outlining the need to future-proof our cities in the face of global warming, it’s clear that developers and architects have a crucial role to play. If the Mayor’s target to make London a zero-carbon city by 2050 is to be met, workplace providers will have to ensure that their buildings are both built and run sustainably.
An Aligned Sustainability Vision
The Black & White Building stands on one of London’s first ultra-low emission thoroughfares, Rivington Street in Shoreditch. The site was previously home to an 11,000ft2 building that TOG had painted black and white, giving its name. This provided workspace for several small creative businesses in the area, but the footplate of the building was ultimately too restrictive to meet local demand, and the fabric of the building would not accommodate a retrofit to expand the space.
Having rejected a conventional new-build design for the site, TOG co-founders and co-CEOs Olly Olsen and Charlie Green were determined that if they were to build from scratch, it should be using the most advanced, meaningfully sustainable construction methods and materials available. It was while exploring such methods that they encountered Waugh Thistleton Architects’ Andrew Waugh presenting a timber-construction scheme during an eco tour of Hackney – and realised that their own vision and the architect’s were in perfect alignment.
“We have always taken the harder route to try to be environmentally sensitive – installing green roofs, solar panels, rainwater harvesting, greywater recycling, recycling building materials and so on – but when you build something like this, it is a commitment,” said Charlie Green.
How to Grow a Building in Under Three Hours
To realise their shared vision, TOG and Waugh Thistleton Architects turned to the innovative materials of cross-laminated timber (CLT) and laminated veneer lumber (LVL) – high-performance wooden materials that are rapidly renewable, highly durable, easily recyclable and less waste-generating than more common building materials such as iron, steel and cement. This means that The Black & White Building creates 37% less embodied carbon than a comparable concrete structure, and serves as a long-term carbon store for 1,014.7 tonnes of CO2 equivalent (55% of the building’s total) in the timber structure.
A total of 1,774 trees have been used to make the core structure – a combination of beech (227 trees) and pine and spruce (1,547), harvested from certified, sustainable forests in Austria and Germany. For a sustainable forest to regenerate the quantity of wood used in the construction of The Black & White Building would take 137 minutes – in other words, you can grow enough to construct a building in less time than it takes to bake a loaf of bread.
CLT is also significantly lighter and easier to transport than conventional building materials such as concrete and steel, which means that fewer deliveries are required to bring the necessary quantities to the construction site. This not only represents a carbon-reduction in terms of logistics, it also makes building in dense urban areas a more efficient, less disruptive process.
Furthermore, because the timber components are engineered to be slotted together, the entire structure can be easily disassembled, piece by piece. This means that materials can be recovered and reused in other products – The Black & White Building has been constructed with the circular economy in mind.
Waugh Thistleton Architects’ Andrew Waugh said, “The principal message of The Black & White Building is sustainability – this is a mainstream, grade-A central London office building, built entirely from timber. It clearly demonstrates that mass timber is a viable replacement for concrete and steel in the mainstream office market, saving thousands of tonnes of CO2. We’re trying to change the way we build, to transform the industry.”
As well as minimising embodied carbon, the design for the building also addresses operational carbon (carbon released during the building’s everyday working life). Every element of the building is optimised for efficiency, enabling tenant businesses to reduce their carbon footprint.
In Good Company
The Black & White Building is the newest addition to the family of seven TOG buildings within 15 minutes’ walk away in Shoreditch and the City, including 81 Rivington Street directly opposite, and Albert House and White Collar Factory both within a five-minute walk. With spaces of all sizes available – from smaller offices ideal for start-ups to entire floors for larger enterprises – it is an ideal workspace choice for sustainability-minded creative businesses at every stage and scale looking for a versatile, boundary-pushing base in the heart of one of the most dynamic neighbourhoods in London.
Businesses interested in TOG office space should visit The Office Group website.