Designed by Waugh Thistleton Architects, The Black&White Building is the new 18-metre high solid timber building in Shoreditch, London's East End, paving the way for a revolution in sustainable architecture

It produces 37 per cent less embodied carbon (between construction products, construction itself, material replacement and end-of-life of the building) than a similar concrete structure; it turns into a long-term carbon store for a total of 1,014 tonnes of CO2 equivalent (55 per cent of the building's total) stored in the timber structure; it is 100 per cent powered by renewable energy sources (a BREEAM Excellent rating is in the pipeline); and it can be dismantled and reused in the future in line with circular economy principles. This is not science fiction, but the result of a collaboration between TOG (a specialist in design workspaces) and one of the pioneers of wooden architecture, Waugh Thistleton Architects. The building is The Black&White Building which explores an architecture of "enough" in which every element has a purpose, nothing is superfluous and materials and processes are as efficient and sustainable as possible.

A statement of intent

The new seven-storey solid timber building in Shoreditch proves that timber is not only a viable alternative to traditional building materials, but that when it comes to performance and sustainability, it is the ideal option. At 18 metres high, it is the first building that TOG has constructed entirely from scratch, a structure that may become a model for the office architecture of the future. Made from renewable materials and innovative construction methods, The Black&White Building is a benchmark for sustainable architecture and a clear statement of intent for TOG. "It represents a major step forward for us and, I hope, for the industry as well. It is a statement of who we are and how we approach sustainability; we no longer need to build the traditional way with concrete and steel," explains TOG co-founder Charlie Green. "When we can, we do renovations and when we build new buildings in the future, we will strive to build them with wood and other sustainable materials."

A challenge to the sceptics

The building is located within walking distance of the Old Street technology hub and Silicon Roundabout, on Rivington Street in Shoreditch, one of London's first low-emission thoroughfares. The previous building, an 11,000-square-metre structure, could no longer meet the demand in the area for workspace and could not be expanded - circumstances that prompted TOG to create the most sustainable building possible. "When I heard that TOG was thinking about a new sustainable office building, it was like I was in the queue at a music club and they played my favourite song. I admire the fact that they had the will and the courage to do it. They challenged the sceptics and took matters into their own hands. It was very brave of them," says Andrew Waugh of Waugh Thistleton Architects.

Changing the way we build

Cross-laminated timber (CLT) and laminated veneer lumber (LVL) were used as building materials: in addition to generating less waste than more common building materials (iron, steel, concrete), they have the advantage of being 100 per cent reusable. The CLT frame was chosen for its sustainability, lightness and strength and was used for the curtain walls, while columns and beams are made of beech LVL. "The main message of The Black&White Building is sustainability: it is a Class A office building in central London, built entirely of timber. It shows that solid wood is a viable substitute for concrete and steel in the office sector, saving thousands of tonnes of CO2. We are trying to change the way we build, to transform the industry,' continues architect Andrew Waugh. The structure comprises a mix of timber from 227 beech and 1,547 pine and spruce trees from certified forests in Austria and Germany. The timber components are prefabricated and designed to fit together, the 'bolted not glued' building requires less labour and, at the end of its life cycle, can be dismantled rather than demolished and the materials can be recovered and reused.

Energy-efficient façade

No element of The Black&White Building is purely decorative: everything has a purpose. In particular, the exterior is clad with wooden louvres running from street level up to the roof. The purpose is to provide natural shading, reduce solar heating on the façade and regulate the supply of natural light. The use of slats also minimises the amount of solar cladding required to protect the glazed windows. All slats are made of thermally modified tulipier wood (TMT), certified and supplied by the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC). A reliable, lightweight, readily available wood with minimal environmental impact. The use of TMT to clad a multi-storey building is something entirely new, and given its effectiveness, it is likely that similar applications will become more widespread in both new construction and renovation, as a way to reduce carbon consumption and solar heating.

Designed to connect

Inside, The Black&White Building is designed to foster interaction and collaboration, allowing people to connect. Throughout the building, there are lounges, breakout areas, and outdoor spaces culminating in a rooftop terrace overlooking the cityscape. To optimise the supply of natural light during the day, a light well runs the full height of the structure. In total, the building houses 28 offices of various sizes, six meeting rooms, focus booths, relaxation areas, 94 bicycle parking spaces and showers. On the lower floor, there is a room dedicated to yoga and recreation.

A benchmark for sustainable building

The Black&White Building is a 'conceptual prototype' to inspire and encourage the architectural community to adopt low carbon construction methods and engineered timber materials. In the short term, the building will provide a home in Shoreditch for creative businesses with a shared sustainability statement. In the long term, it is intended to be an invitation to usher in a new era of architecture, based on low carbon building, circular thinking and natural materials.