British Gas, one of the U.K.’s leading natural gas and electricity suppliers, has been busy as of late with rebranding
efforts designed to position it as a consumer-friendly, modern energy provider.
The company has rolled out a new logo, as well as Me, a mobile app that allows customers to track their energy usage and easily split bills between housemates. It also opened the doors to its new Oxford Business Park headquarters, a spacious, contemporary and sustainable facility that reflects the company’s values of energy efficiency and innovation.
Designed by London-based firm Scott Brownrigg, the new 81,000-square-foot building consolidates three separate sites into one three-story space, providing a flexible and inspiring environment for the company’s 740 employees based in the area.
The design concept is built upon the four key sources of renewable energy: sun, wind, earth and water. The floorplates have been divided into four corners, with each one representing a particular element through the use of vivid colors, materials, furnishings and wall graphics. Bright upholsteries and exposed light bulbs fill the “sun” zone, while bubbly water graphics and pebble-shaped conference seating form the “water” zone. These disparate design concepts are pulled together through the repetitive use of a dandelion motif, representing how the four natural energy sources work together to create growth.
One of the project’s most striking additions is a lush, three-story living wall in the atrium—part of the building’s “earth” zone—which acts as a natural air filter and acoustic buffer, and provides what Scott Brownrigg Principal Ken Giannini calls “a beautiful reminder of the connection to nature.” The system, manufactured by U.K.-based Biotecture, has its own irrigation system and was installed in pre-planted panels hung on a frame fixed to the wall.
The office also includes a variety of “in-between spaces”—breakout areas, booths, touchdown workspaces, a business lounge and a café—which are separate from individuals’ desks, and can be used individually or collaboratively. All are supported by Wi-Fi, power connections and refreshment stations.
“They are actually the most important aspects of the workspace, as much of the work takes place in these areas,” says Giannini. “They give the office environment a sense of community, and set the tone for the culture and image of the office.”
The project has been certified as “Excellent” under the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method® (better known as BREEAM), an international green building rating system focusing on low-carbon and low-impact design, and energy and resource conservation. The certification is one step below the system’s top rating of “Outstanding,” but still makes the new British Gas headquarters the highest-rated BREEAM building in the Oxford Business Park.
“This is a rare achievement, especially because [the rating] includes the fit-out and the base building, which is more difficult to achieve,” Giannini notes.
The new facility features rooftop photovoltaic panels, solar thermal panels for hot water heating and biomass boilers for general heating; the firm is currently also fitting the building for rainwater harvesting. Inside, regionally sourced products,
environmentally friendly furnishings (as measured by BREEAM’s own Green Guide), LED lighting, sensor-activated lighting controls and an office-wide recycling policy complete British Gas’s ambitious brand repositioning.
“The staff and management of British Gas believe it is their best building, and many staff members bring in clients to showcase the sustainable aspects of the building,” Giannini says. “The workforce is inspired, and we are told they find it a great step up from their previous work environment.”
Elianne Halbersberg is a frequent contributor to Interiors & Sources. She has
previously covered sustainability, architecture and interior design.