Siemens - Finalist for the BITC Award for Environmental Leadership

Finalist for the BITC Award for Environmental Leadership

The Crystal in the heart of London’s Docklands is a unique success story, attracting huge visitor numbers and continuing to find cutting edge ways of being one of the most sustainable buildings on the planet.

Key highlights

  • Award winning - The Crystal is the first building in the world to gain the highest ratings in both LEED (Platinum) and BREEAM (Outstanding).
  • A continuous drive for improvement - The lighting systems were upgraded, with the number of light fittings reduced from 88 to just 14 LED fittings
  • Optimising energy use - The building operates at 70 per cent less carbon emissions than comparable office buildings

Anybody that has been lucky enough to take a flight on the Emirates Air Line that stretches across one of London’s most exciting pockets of rapid development cannot have failed to be beguiled by The Crystal, a building that promises to bring sustainability to life.

More than just an attractive piece of architecture, exhibition space or conference venue (although it is indeed all of these things), the building offers a unique opportunity to witness exactly how technology can transform the way we live, work and play in harmony with the environment and the local community – crucially important when you consider that half of the population today lives in cities and the proportion is likely to rise to 70 per cent by 2050.

The Crystal - an indisputable global platform for collaboration amongst key city stakeholders, academia, businesses and the public.

Developed by the global business Siemens, which specialises in electrification, automation and digitalisation – and is one of the world’s largest producers of energy-efficient and resource-saving technologies – The Crystal opened its doors back in 2012 as one of most sustainable buildings in the world.

A state of the art sustainable living space

If your business is about developing technologies that help us to change the way we live in cities today, then you'll want somewhere to show them off. The Crystal was purposely built as a ‘living hub’ to do just that; demonstrate technologies that can contribute to sustainable living.

Its angular design is not merely about aesthetics. The glass facades, with a variety of solar thermal properties, and angled and positioned according to the path of the sun throughout the day, hugely reducing the need to heat the building. When it rains, the sloped roof collects the water and stores in huge 30,000 litre underground tanks and used throughout the building, including the toilets. There are enough solar panels on the roof to generate around 20 per cent of the building’s energy needs. There are 17 kilometres of ground-source heat pumps under the building, meaning that water can be heated without using any power at all. There are electric car charging points and community gardens containing some 50 species of plants.

The all-electric building is driven by Siemens’ very own Crystal Building Energy Management System, controlling all electrical and mechanical systems in the building. Information from an outdoor weather station supplements more than 3,500 data points within the Crystal keeping energy usage at an optimum at all times. This allows the place to operate at 70 per cent less carbon emissions than comparable office buildings.

An award wining icon

The building’s creation has drawn many plaudits and awards. It was the first building in the world to gain the highest ratings in both LEED (Platinum) and BREEAM (Outstanding), the planet’s biggest accreditation bodies for sustainable buildings. And it adheres to a number of operational and event management standards, including ISO 20121, ISO 14001 and OHSAS.

Despite investing £35m in building the ultimate showcase in sustainable developments, every year has seen further improvements to better improve operational efficiency. In 2015, the lighting systems were upgraded, with the number of light fittings reduced from 88 to just 14 LED fittings – motion-sensitive and able to dim to a strength of just 10 per cent when not in use. This has resulted in a saving of 40,631kWh since the system was installed.

Similarly, the installation of a more efficient toilet-flushing system has seen savings of around. 9,000 litres of water a day. A streamlined e-process to minimise paper usage and the installation of Tesla Supercharger car charging points are further reducing the building’s impact on the environment.

The Crystal has done something that few other buildings have done before: Make sustainability sexy. The 75,000 visitors that pass through its doors, and the host of companies and organisations queuing up to make use of the building as a conference or exhibition venue, is testament to that. Staging more than 500 events a year, revenues grew 19 per cent between 2015 and 2016. 

“The Crystal has turned out to be a unique success story,” says Pedro Miranda, Siemens’ former corporate vice president. “It has become the world’s most visited exhibition showcase on urban sustainability and a recognised international flagship for Siemens. And it is now an indisputable global platform for collaboration amongst key city stakeholders, academia, businesses and the public.”