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Energy efficiency in the workplace: Siemens’ landmark green building the Crystal

29th February 2012
Opening this summer in the Docklands is the Crystal, a landmark green building showcasing the latest energy efficiency technologies from around the world and acting as a knowledge hub for sustainable urban engineering. Louise Bateman reports.
Shaped like a crystal, London’s newest landmark green building will open this summer at Royal Victoria Docks just a short distance from all the action at the Olympic Park

The £30 million building has been described as "a flagship" for the Mayor of London’s planned Green Enterprise District – 48km2 of land stretching across six East London boroughs intended to position the capital as a centre for low carbon business. Once completed it will contain office space for over 100 desks for infrastructure experts, research partners, planners and academics from around the world to share knowledge and collaborate on sustainable city projects, but it will principally be a visitor attraction showcasing the best in the world’s technological advances in urban sustainability. And bankrolled as it is by Siemens, you can expect a fair number of these to have been developed by the global engineering and technology services company itself.

"We are working hand in hand with Siemens to pick the most efficient, up-to-date technologies we can," says Dave Richards, Services director for The Crystal and a director at Arup, the engineering consultant charged with getting the Crystal built and up and running. 

Key technologies include high performance glazing across the entire façade of the 7,000 square metre building; 1,580, 90 per cent efficient crystalline photovoltaic panels on the roof; energy efficient lighting and smart metering; rainwater harvesting; water efficient appliances, and ground source heat pumps. Some of the technologies have yet to be installed, in an effort to get the "very latest technologies" incorporated into the building, says Richards. 

EPC A-rated
Designed by Wilkinson Eyre Architects with Pringle Brandon as interior architect, the Crystal aims to achieve top scores against some of the world’s most stringent international standards for sustainable design and construction, including LEED and BREEAM, once completed. As such it will be highly energy efficient, with a carbon footprint 85 per cent less than required under current Building Regulations and an Energy Performance Certificate A-rating.

"This is a high-tech sustainable building from the outset," says Richards. "Only about 36 per cent of its glassy façade is transparent. The remainder is back-insulated." 

The overall u-value of the facade is 1.0W/sm.K with insulated elements achieving 0.16W/sm.K. Glazing g-value vary by orientation between 0.32 and 0.39. "The façades have been designed to capture winter solar gain and reduce summer solar gain," adds Richards. 


Situated as it is, in the heart of London’s Docklands, this is also a building that aims to demonstrate what can be achieved in sustainable design in an interconnected world where society is moving towards electricity as the main source of power. As such, all of the Crystal’s heating needs will be supplied using electrical technologies, while 85 per cent of the Crystal’s electricity consumption will come from the grid, not on-site. 

"The aim is for an 'all-electric’ building," explains Richards. 

Of course, Siemens involvement in the London Array offshore wind farm provides one of the answers for this close narrative with electricity. The other of course is the company’s expertise in smart grid technology and its ambitions to be at the forefront of electric vehicle charging equipment. 

"The building will have electric car charging points and a smart grid connection which will include a battery bank so we can store and replace power when we want to," says Richards.

And the electric story doesn’t end there. Inside the building, extensive metering and the latest in energy efficient lighting and ventilation and heating will connect up to a state-of-the-art building management system (BMS) – supplied of course by Siemens. 

"The BMS will provide full control over all the building systems," says Richards. "It has a level of room control that is quite unusual, controlling lighting levels based on daylight and allowing natural ventilation override so that if you open a window the heating will drop back."

The extensive metering will allow full analysis of individual loads, while the BMS will be linked to a 'green screen' in the lobby so that visitors will be able to view the real-time display of the energy used in the building. 

Stimulate interest
Siemens is expecting around 1,000 daily visitors to the Crystal, all of whom will be able to get a chance to interact virtually with the different technologies in the exhibition. The aim, according to Siemens, will be to stimulate public interest in energy efficiency technologies and green innovation and get communities involved in the debate about how to best address the challenge of climate change in our cities. In this sense, the Crystal will have a very important role to play in promoting energy efficiency for many years to come. 

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