Boasting what is billed as Europe’s largest living wall, Eden will provide 115,000 sq ft of workspace within a 12-storey building that aims to break new ground in sustainable development.
Construction of English Cities Fund’s £36m Salford block is under way, with Bowmer + Kirkland on site. The scheme is due to complete in 2023.
Eden, located on the corner of Irwell Street and Stanley Street within ECF’s New Bailey development, is being built speculatively and its low-carbon credentials are expected to appeal to a broad range of potential occupiers for whom ESG is high on the agenda.
ECF is aiming for a 5.5-star NABERS rating. A system that measures how sustainable a building is in operation. There are currently no other buildings in the UK with this designation, according to the developer.
Among the technologies and approaches contributing to this rating are:
- Enhanced, demand-controlled ventilation
- CO2 monitoring
- A ban of fossil fuel usage
- Air source heat pumps generating heating, cooling and hot water
- Solar panels
“Eden is designed to be net zero carbon in operation, achieving the UKGBC interim energy intensity targets for operational energy,” said Phil Marsden, project director at Muse Developments, part of the ECF partnership.
“We’ve accumulated a huge amount of knowledge over the past 18 months on how to extract the maximum from technology and resources for sustainability purposes.
“Some building projects that have suddenly changed focus to become more carbon efficient have struggled to find the resource to do so in both construction and the operation of those buildings. It’s vital that these requirements are embedded into the brief from the very start.”
This laser focus on environmental comes at a cost but it is perhaps not as high as one might expect. The cost of delivering Eden is around 3% higher than it would have been without such an emphasis on reducing its carbon footprint.
The garden of Eden
Also contributing to the building’s sustainability credentials is the aforementioned green façade.
The 43,000 sq ft wall will comprise an array of plants, insect hotels and bird nesting boxes. It will feature 350,000 plants and is intended to provide several environmental benefits.
These include removing toxins from the atmosphere, creating a significant increase in biodiversity, providing a habitat for birds, butterflies and pollinators, and improving the thermal performance of the building, according to Marsden.
As well as adding to Eden’s green credentials, the living wall also covers up what would otherwise be an uninspiring façade, as Marsden explains.
“To get to the operational energy targets that we set, we had to build a very, very, very efficient, simple façade, which is something we might all have to accept in terms of building carbon efficient buildings.”
As the building will sit on a key gateway site, a dull façade would have left everyone underwhelmed, hence the thinking behind the green wall.
“We’ve got to do something special with the façade,” Marsden said. “It is striking, and it will look amazing.”
Operational performance is one thing, but typically embodied carbon accounts for between 50% and 60% of a building’s carbon footprint.
In this regard, ECF has not been able to go as green as it would have liked. Timber frames were explored and discounted – “we couldn’t make it work”, Marsden told Place North West.
“The industry and the market just isn’t there to build a 12-storey timber frame building. That would have been the perfect solution in terms of reducing embodied carbon.
“There is a huge amount of work needed with the market and with insurance companies and a huge amount of research needed to be able to do that,” Marsden added.
That being said, through “a relentless approach” to analysing materials and design to make the building work in a more environmentally friendly way, Eden is on course to achieve an embodied carbon level of 700kg/CO2/m2, much lower than a typical office development.
“We are all contributors to change for the better, and we each have to start somewhere. Eden is as apt a name as any to describe both a start and a target for a more sustainable future,” Marsden said.