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View: Grid List
London Thames Gateway Development Corporation
Dagenham Dock, London
BREEAM: Outstanding
Colin Rice
Turner & Townsend, Ramboll UK, Hoare Lea, Graham Harrington, Grontmij

The Thames Gateway Institute for Sustainability (TGIfS) is one of a series of our projects that create built environments conducive to research and knowledge transfer.

Institute for Sustainability

This project was to provide space for applied research into green technology in a building which would itself demonstrate a very high level of sustainable performance.

The vision for the TGIfS was to support high quality collaborative multidisciplinary research between universities in the region, their corporate research and technology organisations and sustainable industries located in the Thames Gateway. Research activities support innovative marketable ideas in a virtuous cycle, and so the Institute would also have supported business incubation.

The building was to be located at the heart of the new London Sustainable Industries Park (SIP) at Dagenham Dock and provide adaptable accommodation for research, development and application projects being undertaken by the partners in the Institute and associated groups. Because its activities would have changed and evolved over time the building was designed to be highly adaptable to changing needs, but at the heart of its plan were areas to stimulate and foster interaction between the users.


The vision for the building was to foster interaction and to stimulate innovation and creativity. We used the ideas about collaboration to plan the internal spaces of the building. To encourage knowledge transfer, which was key to the spirit of the IFS, breakout spaces were placed at first floor level between the research spaces and the offices. As well as a place to have a coffee and an informal meeting, they would allow a visual connection to the reserach areas to stimulate discussion and create a sense of activity.


The aspiration was to achieve BREEAM “Outstanding” as a minimum, to reflect the best practice in sustainable design and management and be seen as an international exemplar. The predicted assessment met this target at 87.65%, within a very modest budget. This was largely achieved through passive means, such as orientation.

The construction would have used cross-laminated timber (CLT) panels and Hemcrete external insulation. Timber sequesters carbon so that compared with the equivalent structure made of concrete or steel it would perform much better. By providing the complete envelope it would make the necessary very low air infiltration rate easier to achieve. Hemcrete insulation, a mixture of hemp fibre and lime-based binder, absorbs CO2 in its manufacture and, unlike other insulants, has thermal inertia which compensates for the lower thermal mass of the timber.

A Solar Wall system to the south elevation would have collected solar energy and used it for preheating the ventilation air to the research hall. The perforated dark metal cladding would have been fixed off the Hemcrete leaving an air gap between to trap the sun’s heat to pre-heat the air. In summer the system shades the wall to avoid excessive heat build-up from direct sunlight, with dampers to discharge the heated air at the top of the wall.