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Office refurbishment in London: The changing face of London’s skyline

Office refurbishment in London: The changing face of London's skyline, 55 Bishopsgate London Project

Office refurbishment in London: The changing face of London's skyline

Discover London’s latest news and trends, including how sustainable building practices influence office designers and architects. Stay up-to-date and informed with our insightful article.

London is moving and shaking again, or it will be once the building starts at 55 Bishopsgate, a new 63-story high, metal and glass construction is green-lighted in the City of London. The vast 235m tall building will contain empty office units to buy or rent, all with state-of-the-art facilities.

It’s not easy to get planning permission to build in central London, and 55 Bishopsgate came up against the St Paul’s Cathedral planning committee, who were set against another glass skyscraper dominating the overcrowded skyline.

The site known as 55 Bishopsgate is situated close to the Gerkin and joins other landmark buildings. The Walkie Talkie building (20 Fenchurch Street) and the Cheesegrater (122 Leadenhall Street) are nearby.

The new development will contain over 100,000 square metres of top-quality office space to house 7,500 office workers. The new build will bring footfall to the area and, in doing so, will support local businesses and those that rely on people returning to work.


The building has no nickname yet and could still be cancelled as the last hurdle lies with Sadiq Khan. If the project goes ahead, the completion date is set for 2029.


London’s ever-changing skyline might be up for debate, but the addition of another new building means that others must up their game if they wish to stay competitive and attract the best tenants, and in turn,  businesses attract top talent.

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The Features You Can Expect from a London Refurbishment

55 Bishopsgate features a viewing platform with a ‘biodiverse’ greenhouse underneath. 20 Fenchurch Street has an accessible viewing platform and sky garden. The Leadenhall Building (Cheesegrater) is less impressive, with no interior garden, compared to the others and is an example of how building design has changed for the better in less than 15 years.

Office block designers and architects favour interior gardens and complimentary exterior spaces to improve the visual appearance of the building and offer diverse functionality to what may otherwise be another standard-looking glass obelisk.

Building design and specifications are changing due to the climate crisis and the need to work towards carbon neutrality targets in 2050. Office refurbishments in London require forward thinking to save client’s money and to future-proof developments.

How to Choose the Right Sustainable Materials for Your Refurbishment.

Choosing the best sustainable materials has not always been at the forefront of office refurbs or refits in London. Choosing a sustainable material and a builder who understands the significance of an eco-friendly refit is vital. Sustainable material choices impact the structural and aesthetic qualities of any refurbishment; this includes the surrounding environment and its impact on the broader communities.

The growing emphasis on ecology,  sustainability and ethical design means that an ethical builder will source, recycle and maintain sustainable practices wherever possible. The key to using the best material is with your designer and contractor, so choose well.

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New Ecological Building Materials that are Making an Impact

Bamboo as a structural tool

Bamboo is as old as the hills, literally. This natural product has been used in Thailand, China and South America for centuries. Nowadays, bamboo is a firm favourite with the sustainable architectural community.

Regarding ecological impact, bamboo grows like a weed and is abundant worldwide. Thanks to bamboo’s fast-growing ability, durability and strength, designers use it for more than just flooring.

Bamboo ticks all the boxes; it releases 30% more oxygen than some hardy grasses and other plants. More oxygen contributes to an ecologically responsible workplace environment. The lightweight and flexible nature of the product makes bamboo ideal for structural and decorative work.

Graphene replaces concrete

Graphene is a manufactured material that is one atom thick, making it the thinnest material ever made to date. According to the manufacturer, graphene is almost 200 times stronger than steel—an excellent heat conductor with electricity and light absorption qualities.

The durable properties of this material mean it has many possible uses. US Ford uses a graphene and foam mix to create a reinforced heat-proof engine cover, resulting in a quieter, stronger and more heat-resistant car component. 

Graphene is made from refined graphite flakes and, therefore, is suitable to mix with building composites to produce a greener alternative to concrete. In turn, the antibacterial properties of graphene mean it’s a valuable building product for clinics, hospitals and food preparation facilities.

Hempcrete is low-tech graphene

Sticking with the need to replace concrete, another sustainable alternative is hemcrete. Hempcrete is a plant-based material, hemp combined with lime. Lime is an inorganic building material composed of calcium oxides and hydroxides derived from limestone that has been subjected to extreme heat, such as fire and as a lime by-product of a volcano.

The mix of hemp and lime as a composite creates hempcrete, which offers the same durability as concrete but with 50% less weight and no need to burn fossil fuel to make it. Builds happen faster as hempcrete is easier to manipulate and provides insulation qualities that concrete doesn’t.

If that wasn’t enough, hempcrete breaths because it has a porous structure that absorbs water and releases it back into the atmosphere when conditions allow, making it perfect for buildings in humid conditions.

Mycelium for the masses

When choosing a plant-based material, builders should consider mycelium. Mycelium is a fungus-based root-like structure that is dried to create a flexible, robust, waterproof material. Many manufacturers have been exploring the material’s potential in a sustainable building environment, using it for natural furniture veneers, floor tiles, and interior and exterior temporary structures. 

Some designers are interested in using its unique texture in its natural state. Researchers are still investigating the viability of using this bio-based material on a larger scale, but it holds promise as a sustainable and environmentally-friendly option.

Microalgae, a plant-based resource 

Architects and designers have been rethinking the potential of architecture by considering living ecosystems rather than just static structures. By exploring the use of microalgae on building façades to generate renewable energy and clean the air, designers are future-proofing their builds while creating a better working environment for all stakeholders.

Microalgae is a type of plant that uses photosynthesis to absorb carbon dioxide (CO2) and produce oxygen. When integrated into a building façade, the structure can absorb carbon and deliver biofuel, making the built environment a thriving ecosystem with clean air and a renewable energy source.

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Use straw to insulate 

Straw has been used as an installation material for centuries, but recently, architects and designers have been rediscovering the benefits of using straw as a construction material due to its excellent insulating properties and positive ecological impact. 

As a plant, dried grass or straw is both durable and biodegradable and, with proper maintenance, can last for 100 years before it degrades. While it has yet to be widely used for large-scale construction, it shows promising potential. 

Straw is available locally in many areas, supporting a more sustainable supply chain and construction process. When properly cared for and used in low moisture conditions, this vernacular material is a cost-effective, easy-to-work-with, and sustainable option for commercial insulation.

As technology evolves and new materials are made, bioclimatic refurbishments and design are vital strategies to reach carbon-neutral targets.

Old Technology to Improve Modern Life

Many ancient civilisations, including the Greeks, Romans, and Chinese, have used solar power via orientation as a critical architectural strategy. They understood their environment well and oriented their structures to take advantage of the sun’s trajectory. 

For example, ancient Greek homes were positioned to capture the winter sun for warmth during colder months. This ancient wisdom is still relevant today and can reduce a building’s reliance on artificial heating, cooling, and lighting by leveraging solar orientation. We can lower energy consumption by making living areas warmer and brighter and sleeping areas cooler and darker.

Similarly, natural ventilation was favoured by the ancient Egyptians. They designed structures to harness the ambient environment for comfort in warmer climates. This principle involves using openings such as windows, doors, and vents to promote airflow through buildings. 

Warm, less dense air rises while cool, denser air sinks, creating buoyancy-driven flows. Understanding and leveraging this natural occurrence can help design spaces that enable upward movement of warm air and cooler air intake, facilitating continuous airflow.

Passive strategies that focus on balancing temperature are crucial. Evaporative cooling is another popular ancient technique. This natural ventilation strategy leverages the cooling effect of water evaporation to decrease indoor temperatures. Civilisations used wet reeds in windows, windcatchers, and qanats (underground water channels) in hot and arid regions to create comfortable indoor environments.

Evaporative cooling units, also known as “swamp coolers,” are popular as they draw in warm air, cool it by passing it over water-saturated pads, and distribute the cooled air throughout the building. Thermal mass, a fundamental concept of bioclimatic architecture, refers to a material’s ability to absorb, store, and release heat. 

While brick, concrete, and stone naturally absorb and release heat, integrating them optimally can significantly influence a building’s free energy profile and promote occupants’ comfort. 

However, choosing high thermal mass materials is just the beginning. Placing them strategically within a structure to capitalise on diurnal temperature cycles (a pattern that recurs every 24 hours due to one complete rotation of the planet Earth) is crucial. 

A well-planned approach can enhance passive solar heating in colder months and promote night cooling in warmer periods. When combined with other passive design strategies, such as adequate insulation and ventilation, thermal mass can significantly achieve carbon neutrality and positive energy entrapment in buildings. 

The challenge lies in balancing the mass with the building’s specific microclimate, ensuring it responds favourably to seasonal and daily thermal shifts. This brings us neatly back to London’s new skyscraper at 55 Bishopsgate. 

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Why it’s Important to Choose a Sustainable Building Contractor

Knowledge is power, and sustainable construction is a vital practice that has become increasingly important. These practices encompass a range of strategies and techniques to reduce a building’s environmental impact while improving its overall quality and longevity. 

Sustainable construction’s primary goal is reducing greenhouse gas emissions, contributing significantly to climate change. By using materials and techniques that are more energy-efficient, sustainable construction can mitigate the effects of global warming and create a more eco-friendly built environment.

Another critical benefit of sustainable construction is resource conservation. With the world’s population continuing to grow at an unprecedented rate, it is essential that we find ways to use our resources more efficiently and effectively. 

Using sustainable materials and techniques can reduce waste, conserve energy, and minimise our impact on the natural environment. Sustainable strategies include using recycled building materials to minimise the manufacturer’s water consumption and improve indoor air quality for the end user.

Sustainable construction can also improve the long-term durability of our built environment. By using high-quality materials and designing buildings with durability in mind, we can create more resilient structures that can withstand the challenges of time and nature, including everything from using materials with high thermal mass to incorporating passive design strategies that maximise energy efficiency and occupant comfort.

Overall, sustainable construction is an essential practice that creates a more sustainable and resilient office building environment. By reducing greenhouse gas emissions, conserving resources, and improving the durability of our buildings, we can create a more sustainable future for ourselves and future generations. Read more here.

London Office Refit and Refurbishment Building Must Haves

Sustainable building is not only about reducing the environmental impact but also about creating a space that is comfortable and conducive to work. It is essential to consider the reception area as guests’ first impression of the company is vital to good business practice.

Green living walls can provide a calming and refreshing atmosphere, while soundproofing ensures privacy and concentration. Office morale is also crucial in the workspace’s colour scheme and overall design, influencing the atmosphere.

Designers have seen an uplift in the request for wet and shower rooms, changing spaces, and group break-out areas. Ceiling lighting must be adjustable (preferably remotely) for optimal brightness and energy efficiency. 

Office design should be functional and provide technology access for productivity. As more attention is paid to sustainable building, we can expect to see even more innovative designs and features that prioritise both the environment and the people who use the space.

Choose Initial Interiors if you require an office refit or refurb in the London area. Initial Interiors of London provides efficient contracting, refurbishments and fit-outs for offices throughout the West End of London in the EC1, EC2, EC3, EC4, E1, WC1, WC2, W1, N1 and SE1 postcode areas.

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