A grand tour of the world’s most sustainable buildings leads us to the Co-op HQ in Manchester


If Cliff Richard had been a sustainability consultant this is the summer holiday he would have taken. A grand tour of the world’s most sustainable buildings where the sun not only shines brightly but glints from photovoltaic panels, and where the sea is blue, perhaps partly because all the grey water in the nearby town is being recycled.

Both the UK and the rest of the world have a lot to offer the sustainability tourist from the Co-op headquarters’ sparkling glass facade in Manchester to the bees on the roof of Le Hive in Paris. Leading industry figures have picked the buildings they think should inspire our efforts towards zero carbon.

This installment of industry figures’ grand tour of sustainable buildings takes us to the Co-op HQ in Manchester. The other stops on the Grand Tour are: the London 2012 velodrome, Le Hive in Paris, Bournville Village in Birmingham, the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens Visitor Center, New York and Geoffrey Bawa’s house in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Co-operative Headquarters, Manchester

Co-op Manchester


I was lucky to have a tour of the recently completed new Co-op Headquarters in Manchester, One Angel Square. It has to have my vote as the best sustainable building.

Not only is it striking to look at, but sustainability was built into it from initial design. It is functional and practical, and achieved the highest ever BREEAM Outstanding score. It is EPC A+ rated and is also designed to operate at a Display Energy Certificate level of A.

It incorporates so many features it is difficult to list them all, but they include earth tubes, chilled beams, twin skin facades, and a CHP pure plant oil system which uses rape seed grown on the Co-op’s own farms. The heat exchanger has provision for an external heat network to be connected. In addition, water consumption is very low, with rainwater capture and grey water harvesting being used.

It is astonishing from the inside and has an air of space and flexibility. It was designed to accommodate changes within the business and a recent survey showed that a high proportion of staff felt that the working environment in Angel Square exceeded their expectations.

It is designed to be future-proof following a study commissioned by the Co-op to mitigate the effect of climate change in Manchester up to 2050.

This is a stunning, exciting building well deserving of the many accolades it has received.

Bill Wright, head of energy solutions, Electrical Contractors’ Association