Max Fordham set to deliver UK’s largest full timber structure, net zero carbon office building

A large red brick building next to a busy main road in a sunny day

Planning permission has been secured to create the UK’s largest full timber frame, net zero carbon office building.

Camden Council unanimously approved the innovative sustainability-led designs for Global Holdings (GHMG UK) to redevelop and future-proof the site of the former Holborn Town Hall on the southeast corner of Gray’s Inn Road and Clerkenwell Road.

The project will deliver a 95,000 sq ft modern office building with eight floors of bright, light workspace, a communal roof terrace and yoga deck, and five landscaped terraces with views of the city. The building will bring people together via a restaurant at ground level and a fully equipped active commuting hub.

In keeping with the culture of Clerkenwell, Farringdon and Hatton Garden as centres of innovation and creativity, a second 12,000 sq ft building on the site will provide six affordable apartments and an airy ground level affordable workspace to support the area’s entrepreneurs and creative industries.

Working alongside architect, Piercy & Co, Max Fordham are the Building Services, Net Zero Carbon, Sustainability, BREEAM, and Acoustic Consultants for the project.

We have pioneered the building services engineering and energy performance, and undertaken the Whole Lifecycle Carbon modelling in order to surpass RIBA 2030 Climate Challenge and the GLA planning targets. This is being achieved through our Net Zero Carbon service using the UKGBC Net Zero Carbon framework. We are also leading the NABERS UK Design for Performance modelling in order to showcase the exemplar performance of the design and building once in use.

By pursuing innovative design and circular economy principles, construction methods and use of sustainable materials, this LETI Pioneer building will deliver a substantially reduced carbon footprint versus typical office buildings and is targeting a NABERS 5.5* energy rating.

The use of low carbon materials and circular economy principles for the façade and interiors will also exceed GLA and Camden policy targets for sustainability and energy efficiency, with the dry nature of the construction allowing for future deconstruction and re-use with minimal wastage.

The building also has a strong wellbeing ethos with landscaped terraces on most levels, a communal rooftop garden and yoga deck, and large windows to maximise daylight. The use of natural materials and extensive internal planting will help provide clean, highly oxygenated air, which will be continually assessed by air quality monitors, with the ventilation systems being designed in response to emerging. 

“Achieving Net Zero Carbon requires a ‘whole building’ approach to design. We are thrilled to be part of a team that has pioneered lean design, carefully considered material selection, and explored the circular economy opportunities in order to reduce the embodied carbon emissions. We’ve driven down the building’s operational energy demands by prioritising passive principles and optimising the facade, engineering efficient active systems, and then supplementing through low and zero carbon energy sources. We are committed to see the in-use performance realised and ultimately verified by others. We want to show that low energy design is not a concept but a reality in our lifetime.”

Director, Mechanical Engineering Leader

“The building’s operational energy efficiency and low lifetime carbon targets will be delivered via 100% renewable grid electricity, rooftop photovoltaic panels, an intelligent Building Management System, energy efficient all electric heating, hot water, and cooling systems, and demand-driven displacement ventilation to the office floors. The building’s occupiers can expect to reduce their occupational CO2 emissions by up to 82% compared to a typical office building.”

BEng EngD CEng FIMechE
Director, MEP Engineering

“The context and history of this site is immensely complex: the site of the former Holborn Town Hall is flanked by listed buildings of the Bourne Estate and the 17th-century Gray’s Inn Gardens. The strategy was to revitalise and repurpose the smaller 88 Gray's Inn Road building to provide design-led, high-quality affordable housing and workspace, and simultaneously create an extremely resilient, adaptable, and sustainable office building with contextually sensitive architecture. It has been meticulously designed, following a comprehensive whole-life carbon analysis, using the reinforced concrete basement walls of the existing buildings at 100 Gray’s Inn Road and 127-135 Clerkenwell Road, combined with a new sustainable timber structure and high-performance façade. The opportunities afforded by the timber structure are compelling from both the embodied carbon perspective and in terms of the human benefits of a building that will bring occupants into daily contact with the warmth, tactility, beauty and even the scent of the timber.”

Stuart Piercy Piercy & Co Founder