The greenest building is the one that’s already there

Tempest voted one of the best 90 buildings of the last century

Some of us were in London yesterday so we dropped in at the Building Centre. We were deeply honoured to see Tempest, one of our schemes for Capital&Centric had been nominated as one of the most significant buildings of the last 90 years!

The blurb read…
“Tempest was always a cut above its neighbouring contemporaries. Its architects broke it into two mini-towers, attached to the same core, making it seem smaller and more interesting. The architecture echoed in its canted corners and strong verticals one of Britain’s most admired office projects of the 1960s, Alison and Peter Smithson’s Economist Building. The ground floor’s higher openings recalled the classical columns that invite you into many older buildings in the city, and the shape of the building opened up a generous area of potential public space outside.
Its refurbishment has brought out the best in it. So much of the potential of modernist buildings is shut down by lacklustre management, but at Tempest it’s all been brought back into use. The flat roof has become an open terrace enjoying wide views and the visceral pleasures of eating, drinking and socialising up among the rooftops. The outdoor space, so often in post-war offices kept as a dance-floor for wind-blown litter, has been turned into another café terrace. Generous ground-floor windows allow the bar and the street to enliven each other.
Inside, rather than fight the architecture, the designers have embraced the toughness of the concrete, running cables and pipes across it with appealing industrial frankness. Once you strip out the tawdry drywall, polystyrene ceiling tiles, carpet tiles and plastic duct-covers that are so balefully familiar in post-war office interiors, you’re left with something beautiful, raw and exciting.
And seeing all that concrete is a powerful reminder of why saving the building was such a good decision. Even if you hate the look of concrete, keeping it is the right thing to do. Of all human activities, building new buildings is one of the worst for speeding up climate change. Refurbishing an existing concrete building avoids wasting all the carbon that’s still up in the atmosphere from when it was built, but even more importantly it avoids the enormous carbon cost (tens of thousands of tonnes) of demolishing and replacing it. In the process you can improve the energy performance of the existing building by upgrading windows, adding insulation, and installing lower-energy lighting and other services.
The realisation is spreading that ‘the greenest building is the one that’s already there.’ Tempest teaches us the profoundly cheering lesson that, with talented designers and an enlightened client, it can be not only the greenest, but also the most beautiful.”
Barnabas Calder