Structural timber breathes new life into East India Dock offices
A masterplan for Republic at East India Dock set out to refurbish two ten-storey office buildings and the surrounding area in phases. The Import Building and Export Building have been transformed into sustainable, affordable working spaces for creative, cultural and technology companies, set in a green, relaxing and biodiverse landscape.
Built in the late 1980s and early 1990s, two reinforced concrete office buildings in London’s Docklands were unloved and uninspiring, with the streetscape dominated by road traffic.
The two buildings have been re-designed to be open, airy and attractive. Both have new ground and first floor pavilion extensions providing active street frontage for cafes, restaurants and retail space.
Both the Import Building and the Export Building have been expanded with an internal nine-storey timber framed structure, installed within the atrium of each building. These provide a ‘structure within a structure’ and have increased the floor area of both buildings while providing new dynamic reception space.The structural timber has been left exposed to soften the aesthetic and to create light, modern office spaces.
Running between the two buildings is a new pedestrian-friendly outdoor space, complete with water features, planting and timber pavilions, creating a sociable and relaxing outside area.
The area around the buildings is largely residential, and with the new outdoor spaces and extra amenities, the whole area is now enjoyed by local residents and office tenants alike.
Formerly known as Anchorage House, the ten-storey Import Building was the first phase of the Republic masterplan. The original reinforced-concrete framed office building was extended at ground level with a steel frame and metal deck construction. Inside, a dramatic new atrium was created using exposed glulam and CLT.
Previously known as Capstan House, the Export Building includes timber framed extensions that provide natural and biophilic working environments. The office spaces overlooking the atrium feature full height glazing, providing an open vista to the reception area below. Both the atrium and pavilion extensions at the Export Building were constructed from engineered timber, with a glulam frame and CLT floor slabs.
Both offices feature storage for more than 250 bicycles, together with changing rooms, showers, lockers and toilets – all designed to encourage people to cycle to work. For those who prefer to use public transport, the buildings are adjacent to the East India DLR station.
Running between the Import and Export Buildings, the car-free East India Dock Public Realm provides attractive green and biodiverse landscapes for office tenants and the local community.
The waterways form a key element of the original docks and have been improved with a series of weirs and water features which add interest, aerate the water and also help to mask the nearby road noise. Timber pavilions and seating provide flexible outdoor workspaces amongst trees, shrubs and aquatic flora.
The architects specifically wanted to use timber and chose cross-laminated timber (CLT) and glue-laminated timber (glulam) to provide lightweight, efficient and sustainable structural solutions.
The majority of the existing structural elements of the buildings were retained, reused and repurposed, an inherently sustainable approach to commercial development.
The engineered timber structures have extended the lettable floor area of the buildings without any additional work to the foundations. Both the Import and Export buildings feature a central atrium with generous roof lights, cantilevered timber framed balconies and exposed timber frames.
The timber used across the masterplan was sustainably forested under the PEFC accredited scheme. It was manufactured by Austrian and German sustainable timber manufacturers who operate efficient, zero wastage production methods.
High-tech CNC production processes ensured that the timber was cut to precise measurements with off-cuts reused for bio-fuel power. Each timber element was manufactured off-site in a factory and delivered to site at the exact moment it was needed, minimising disturbance to neighbours.
Renewably sourced Siberian larch was specified for the façade bays, chosen for its durability and aesthetic as it ages.
The carbon of the new structures has been counted using Heyne Tillett Steel’s in-house carbon calculator developed with advice from Sturgis carbon consultants and KLH Sustainability.
For the Export Building the count equates to approximately 88kgCO2e/m² over the new floor area, providing a 73% improvement of the structural portion (65%) of the RIBA 2030 target of 500kgCO2e/m².
At the Import Building the count equates to 155kgCO2e/m² over the new floor area. This is only 9kgCO2e/m² and 12kg CO2e/m² over the total building areas, respectively.
The carbon stored in the new structure equates to 404 tonnes at Export and 460 tonnes at Import, meaning that for the buildings’ lifetime until demolition the structure stores more than 1.5 times carbon than used to be built.