National Winner
180 Great Portland Street, London


Project Client:

Great Wigmore Partnership


Great Portland Estates

Project Manager:

Buro Four

Quantity Surveyor:

Davis Langdon


Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands

Interior Designer:

Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands

M&E Engineer:

Cundall Johnston and Partners

Structural Engineer:



ISG InteriorExterior


Great Portland Estates

We will all face judgement by our grandchildren on the sustainability of the offices we are building today. Yet only around 2% of buildings are replaced every year, which means that many of those judges will be grandparents themselves before the legacy of inefficiency is eradicated. Our primary focus should be on existing stock and innovation must go beyond techniques such as insulation and natural ventilation to address the energy and materials embodied within buildings.

This former Edwardian residential block, with its cramped cellular spaces, is a classic example of how to think outside the box. Demolition was the obvious solution but that would have meant removing around 6,000 tons of waste and importing a similar amount of energy-hungry new material.

Instead, an ingenious technique has transformed the building. Steel columns were cut into masonry walls and cross beams attached above the existing floor on each side of the wall. The floors were then hung from the new steel frame. Masonry walls could then be removed, generating only 2,000 tons of waste and opening the five floors for modern office use. The need for replacement concrete floors was eradicated and services fed through new floor voids. Another clever sustainable technique involved relocation of the cores into existing lightwells to provide lateral stability.

'This shows that innovation does not have to involve widgets, gadgets and go-faster stripes,' said the judges. 'It just requires clever ideas put together in a thoughtful way.'

Development was not easy. The brief was to maximise lettable area, utilise as much of the existing fabric as possible and limit structural modifications - all on a tight budget. The fa├žade had to be retained as it is in a conservation area and work had to take place while ground floor retail tenants remained in occupation.

As buildings become more energy efficient, this focus on embodied energy will become more important. The immense savings in materials has given the building flexibility and a new lease of life while maintaining many BCO specification requirements. It shows that sustainability does not need to be visible when using careful architectural and structural techniques to regenerate buildings without paying a high price.