250 Bishopsgate: Bringing nature into a London building

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NatWest Group explains how sustainability has been embedded into its flagship building in London

Once inside the modern glass and steel exterior of the NatWest Group's London flagship building, located in 250 Bishopsgate, it reveals itself as a giant greenhouse. It's a design success story of how to bring the outside in.

When we talk of 250 Bishopsgate being a 'green' building, we aren't talking about energy, although it has made improvements to reduce its energy usage through capital investment programmes. It's a building filled with greenery that spills out onto its inner city garden terraces. Plants and nature are linked to wellbeing, relaxation and improved concentration levels, all of which are essential to maintain and nurture at work. 

The building's futuristic, edgy architecture gives a hint that inside it houses a team of forward-thinking individuals, always looking to create a better future. They work together in a hive of activity to suggest, test, trial and implement the latest innovations. They are also known as the 250 Bishopsgate Sustainability Champions, a mixture of facilities management, front of house and resident colleagues.       

The latest innovation to be implemented is a plant to plate EvoGro system. Senior facilities manager David McManus explains: "With this system, we can grow from seed to produce within seven days and use the fresh produce on-site with zero pesticides and zero carbon-emissions by not having the produce delivered into the building. Our chef is very excited to develop seasonal salads and vary the produce weekly."

This is not the only food grown in the building. On its level three terrace there's an abundance of produce; grapes, apples, pears, strawberries, raspberries, blackcurrants and even potatoes. The building also has its own herb garden. This helps promote a message of health and wellbeing to the colleagues that occupy the building.

Food scraps from meal prep in the buildings Garden Cafe are taken to a wormery to feed the worms that in turn produce liquid fertiliser as an output. The worms were brought onsite along with a composter to help reduce food waste, another area that the sustainable champions are passionate about. The bonus of having the worms onsite is that the fertiliser they produce is used to fertilise the terrace gardens. This is circular economy in practice.

The terrace gardens are a peaceful oasis of decorative plants mixed with fruit trees that frame a spectacular view of London. They are relaxing spaces for staff to unwind, have a beverage or a healthy meal from its Garden Café.  Staff can also bring in their own packed lunches to enjoy on the terraces. Once done with lunch, staff dispose of their waste in the new waste stations that were implemented last year to make waste segregation easier for staff, and to increase recycling. 250 Bishopsgate was the first of the NatWest large offices to trial reverse vending machines. This ensures that plastic bottles disposed in the building are responsibly recycled and kept out of nature.

Nature as a theme and the greenery of the outdoors is brought inside with an array of pot plants of varying sizes, from huge trees as focal points to tiny plants that sit comfortably on a desk or a shelf. There's a variety of hanging plant pots and greenery that peaks out in inconspicuous places all around the building. Then there's the impressive living wall that is more a work of art. 

To keep up the feeling that you're in the middle of the jungle, there's an old Jeep that has been upcycled into a meeting room. It's no boring meeting for those who manage to book out the Jeep. 

In October last year, 250 Bishopsgate was a 'highly commended' Green Building Project of the Year at BusinessGreen's annual Leaders Awards ceremony.  So how easy is it to create and manage a building that is so focused on sustainability and wellbeing? McManus answers: "It's been relatively straight-forward for us, with sustainability very much a must have, not a could have."


This article was sponsored by NatWest

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