clerkenwell office refurbishment strip out - site progress

The Clerkenwell Office renovation project involved the transformation of a historic Victorian warehouse into a modern, eco-friendly office space, all while preserving its architectural integrity and heritage.

This post highlights the challenges faced, the solutions, and the sustainable practices employed. This topic was covered for a talk at the Building Centre titled “Retrofit Talks: Clerkenwell Office x Architecture for London.”


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An office in Clerkenwell

The original building is situated in a conservation area just north of Farringdon Station, a location rich with historical context and architectural heritage. The building, a classic example of Victorian warehouse architecture, had served various purposes over its long history, including as the office space for Architecture for London. This deep familiarity with the building’s quirks and deficiencies provided insights during the renovation process.

The original structure, built in the late 19th century, had seen numerous changes and repairs over the years due to fire damage, Blitz damage, and general wear and tear. These layers of history presented both a challenge and an opportunity to integrate modern design while respecting the past.

office refurbishment lobby design with blockwork walls and a steel staircase

Goals for a sustainable office

The core objective of the Clerkenwell Office retrofit was to enhance sustainability in architecture without compromising the building’s historic charm. The project aimed to significantly reduce the building’s carbon footprint by adopting a range of eco-friendly measures.

Energy efficiency

The building now features triple-glazed windows, insulation, and an airtight construction to minimise energy consumption.

Renewable energy

The building is now gas-free, relying instead on rooftop heat pumps. Additionally photovoltaic (PV) panels have been installed, and a green roof helps to reduce water runoff.

Material selection

The project utilised materials that are sustainable and have a low environmental impact. For instance, the new floors, roof, and external walls were constructed using lightweight materials to ensure the existing foundations, cast iron columns, and masonry walls could support the increased load without modification.

Emission reduction

The emissions rate for all new build elements is 15 kgCO₂/m²/year, representing a 34% improvement over the Building Regulations requirement. This translates to a reduction of 3,000 kg/year of CO₂ emissions.

Overheating analysis

An overheating analysis was conducted to combat issues of overheating and glare due to large areas of south-facing glass. This allowed for the optimisation of the façade to provide ample natural light without causing discomfort or excessive heat gain.

Indoor air quality

Installing a mechanical ventilation with heat recovery (MVHR) system improves indoor air quality by filtering out NO₂ and particulates from the busy city road outside.

Sustainable facilities

Showers and bike stores are provided to encourage sustainable commuting practices.

Clerkenwell road architect design office, view from Clerkenwell Priory historic square in a conservation area of London

Design and structural challenges

Retrofitting the Clerkenwell Office involved addressing several structural challenges. The building’s layout was not conducive to modern office requirements, requiring significant redesign while ensuring structural integrity and compliance with modern safety standards.

Lift core

A new lift core was added to the building, which required careful planning to avoid disrupting the existing structure. The core was constructed using lightweight blocks to reduce the load on the building and minimise the need for extensive foundations. A new level entrance and reconfigured staircase were also added to improve accessibility across all levels.

Fire safety

Achieving compliance with modern fire safety regulations was a major concern, particularly given the building’s historical single staircase design. The solution involved upgrading the fire resistance of floors and improving compartmentalisation to enhance escape routes.

Space optimisation

The retrofit aimed to maximise usable office space. The design included a new rooftop extension, carefully balanced to meet planning requirements and preserve the building’s aesthetic. The internal area was increased by nearly 50%, expanding from 7,600 sqft to 10,150 sqft, and included the addition of a three-storey extension to the rear and an additional setback rooftop storey.

sustainable office refurbishment esg in London with scaffold, steelwork and blockwork

The Clerkenwell Office project demonstrates how historic buildings can be successfully retrofitted to meet modern sustainability standards while preserving their architectural heritage.


Discover Architecture for London’s office projects. If you would like to discuss your project please contact us.