White Collar Factory

Derwent London’s latest commercial development, White Collar Factory, combines years of research,lessons learned from well-built historic industrial spaces, and best practice in sustainable modern office design, to deliver a low-cost, low impact, and flexible working environment. A JCT Design and Build Contract provided the contract solution.

Located overlooking Old Street roundabout, White Collar Factory is surrounded by the trendy and artistic enclaves of Shoreditch, Hoxton and Clerkenwell in the northern part of the City of London. Home to Tech City, Old Street is a diverse community of successful start-ups and established digital companies. This range of creative and technology industries is helping to drive the regeneration, growth, and development taking place in the area.

White Collar Factory is the latest result of a long-term research initiative between Derwent London and architect, Allford Hall Monaghan Morris (AHMM). Their other recent projects together include Shoreditch’s Tea Building and the RIBA Stirling shortlisted Angel Building in Islington. Working with engineering firms AKT II and Arup, their research has looked at the features that have allowed the city’s Victorian warehouses and factory buildings to have lasted so long, and how this longevity could inform future sustainable development. The principles of their development projects have centred on being low-cost and low-carbon, as part of providing user-focused design and function. In working on White Collar Factory, the project team identified five key elements from the research that have provided the back-bone to the project: high ceilings, deep plans, simple passive façades, concrete structure, and smart servicing.

Prior to construction, and as part of the research phase, the project team took the unusual step of investing in a £1m prototype of the building. A 325m2 replica of White Collar Factory was erected on the site for a period of 12 months. The results put the team in a much stronger position to inform the final design of the building, prove and test their theories beyond reasonable doubt, and enable buy-in from the market, helping to achieve a full roster of tenants from the outset.

White Collar Factory is a development of six buildings in total – a complex of office spaces, studios, incubator spaces, restaurants, apartments, and the main feature – a 16-storey tower topped with a 150m race track – totalling 27,200m2. The predominant material is concrete and it is featured in several ways: it forms the structure, provides thermal mass, carries embedded cold water pipes, and creates the building’s distinct interior and exterior finishes.

At pavement level, board shuttered concrete covers the building. The glazing is broken up by alternating panels of ‘portholes’ banded with anodised aluminium panels. In addition, the glazing varies in response to the orientation of the tower – larger openings to the north, smaller in the east and west, and smallest in the south. The building envelope extends above the roof height which protects the running track at the top of the tower.

White Collar Tower is conceived to be as low-carbon and low-impact as possible, designed to withstand the long-term effects of climate change. The development is rated EPC A, BREEAM Outstanding, and LEED Platinum. One of the key ways this is achieved is through a bespoke Concrete Core Cooling (CCC) system, which is integrated into White Collar Factory’s design and structure. Unlike conventional air conditioning it is a passive cooling system, quiet to run, with less air movement within the office space, so it provides a comfortable and effective working environment. It works with the thermal mass of the building’s concrete structure to absorb the heat generated in the office. The heat is transferred by a network of chilled water pipes embedded in the concrete, providing radiant cooling and controlling the environment. Natural exposed concrete soffits and perimeter blade columns are integrated into the façade to declutter the space and provide additional exposed thermal mass. It helps the structure keep both warm and cool as required. Openable windows enable 70% natural ventilation of the floor plate. The fresh air works in conjunction with the passive cooling system. Mechanical ventilation input can be reduced by using natural ventilation at least 50% of the time (when outside temperature is between 14oC and 25oC). The 3.5m floor-to-ceiling height is also excellent for providing volume and light.

Flexible occupation is also a key part of the design of the building function, with the generous and open floor areas providing a number of options, in particular suitability for high-density occupation. Under floor power and data, with exposed services are easy to adapt and maintain. The well-being of occupants and sense of community across the development has also been considered fully. Along with the running track, there is also space for nearly 300 bicycles in the basement, encouraging healthy and low-carbon transport. The whole development has a substantial degree of public space, providing multiple restaurants and cafes on site.

The combination of better energy performance, lower carbon emissions, lower energy usage, and natural ventilation also has an impact on dramatically reducing cost. White Collar Factory was between 15-20% cheaper to build than the equivalent standard building. The development is also expected to provide between a 10-30% reduction in energy costs per year – depending on tenant fit-out configurations, and a 25% reduction in carbon emissions over a typical office building of the same size.

The focus on research-led attention to detail on White Collar Factory not only adds new life to an existing space, it takes well thought, timeless principles to inform a project that is innovative, future-proof and shows a real care for balancing the work and living requirements that make a development successful. With a project that requires this complex level of detailed requirements, and where the design-meets-research prototyping is vital to informing the final outcome, the JCT Design and Build Contract is an important tool in helping the project team detail the requirements and responsibilities effectively, helping White Collar Factory to emerge tailored to perfection.


Cost £76m
Contract JCT Design and Build Contract
Client Derwent London
Architect Allford Hall Monaghan Morris
Main contractor Multiplex
Engineer Arup
Structural/civil engineer ATK II
Project manager/CDM co-ordinator Jackson Coles
Quantity surveyor AECOM
Building control BRCS
Rights of light Gordon Ingram Associates
Planning consultant Tibbalds
Security consultant QCIC Group
BIM coordination BIM Technologies
Party Wall surveyor Botley Byrne
Archaeology Molas
Construction legals Speechly Bircham
Property legals Macfarlanes
Tunnel monitoring Survey Associates
Wayfinding and identity design Cartlidge Levene
Identity design Studio Myerscough

Photograph: Tim Soar