Seven wonders of Eco-building in Britain

Emissions from buildings account for around a third of all the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions, so there is an urgent need to upgrade existing stock and for all new buildings to be energy efficient. Fortunately, architects are rising to the challenge and designing structures that are both complementary to their immediate locations and friendly to the wider environment. Here we look at seven projects that have led the way…


1. Salesforce Tower (Design: Kohn Pedersen Fox)

(Picture: By Eluveitie – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

The tallest building in the City of London is also one of the most eco-friendly. Known when built as Heron Tower, the 230-metre high skyscraper has an array of 657 custom-made solar panels that generate an estimated 92.5 MWhrs and saving 51,800 kg of CO2 every year. The PV cells also act as a solar shield, reducing heat absorption in the summer.

Levels 41 to 46 house heat recovery systems and there is also an ice storage facility and adiabatic cooling to further reduce energy consumption.


2. The WISE Building (Design: Pat Borer and David Lea Architects)

(Picture: Centre for Alternative Technology Media Department (Tobi Kellner at English Wikipedia) Public Domain)

The solar panels at Heron Tower were installed by Dulas, a Welsh company that grew out of CAT, the Centre for Alternative Technology at Machynlleth in Wales. CAT has its own range of eco-friendly buildings, the latest and most spectacular being the WISE (Wales Institute for Sustainable Education) Building, which hosts a range of ecologically educational activities.

As well as ultra-high standards of insulation and air tightness, the building’s hot water is supplied by a combination of roof-mounted solar water heating tubes and a wood-fuelled zonal heating system.


3. Heelis – The National Trust HQ (Design: Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios)

(Picture: Roger Cornfoot, CC BY-SA 2.0,

Suitably for an organisation with a brief that includes conservation and environmental management, the National Trust is based in a building constructed from carefully chosen materials, including recycled drinks cans and wool from the Trust’s own sheep. An array of PV cells on the roof provides 30% of the building’s annual electricity.

And why Heelis? That was the married name of Beatrix Potter, a key figure in establishing the National Trust.


4. Eden Foundation building (Design: Grimshaw)

Further west still, our next example is the Eden Project’s latest building, designed to house its staff and library facilities. Its exceptional insulation was achieved through lining the walls, floor and ceiling with old newspapers

There are plans next for an eco-friendly hotel onsite for visitors and students on the Project’s educational courses.


5. Cambridge Central Mosque (Design: Marks Barfield)

(Picture: By cmglee – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

The mosque can hold up to 1,000 worshippers and has an underground car park for 82 vehicles and – appropriately for the old university city it serves – 300 bicycles.

The mosque has a timber structure, made from sustainably sourced spruce and a green roof. Rainwater is collected for use within the building, as well as to irrigate the gardens – which include twenty newly planted cypress trees – surrounding the building.


6. ECCI – Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation (Design: Malcolm Fraser Architects)

Unlike the other buildings featured, this shows how existing buildings can be refurbished to achieve excellent environmental ratings. Indeed, the ECCI building in Edinburgh was the first refurbished building to achieve an ‘Outstanding’ BREEAM rating (of 87.5%).

The majority of the building’s energy needs is obtained from solar PVs mounted on the roof, along with an air source heat pump and through connections to a local district heating system and CHP, resulting in a 40% decrease in COemissions.


7. Bloomberg HQ (Design: Foster + Partners)

(Picture: The wub – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Back to London for our final wonder. Bloomberg’s London headquarters achieved a 98.5% BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) score, the highest ever achieved for an office building anywhere in the world.

It has a water collection system on the roof and vacuum-drainage toilets that dramatically reduce water usage, while around 4,000 integrated ceiling panels combine heating, cooling and LED lighting.