The Entopia Building is retrofitted from a telephone exchange building constructed in the 1930s and is due to be completed in ten monthsLucas Maddalena

The Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) announced the commencement of building works for its new headquarters, which upon completion is claimed to be the world’s first retrofitted office with ultra-low energy and carbon usage.

The Entopia Building, located on Regent Street in Cambridge, is being retrofitted from a telephone exchange building constructed in the 1930s and is due to be completed in ten months.

The retrofitting process itself is projected to lead to an 80% reduction in whole-life carbon emissions compared to typical refurbishments.

The new building follows sustainability benchmarks based on EnerPHit, a green standard for the retrofitting of existing buildings. The Entopia Building aims to boast a 75% reduction in heating demand compared to normal office buildings. Airtightness of the building will also be more than five times that which typical building standards require.

The project seeks to achieve these goals through several innovations. For instance, more than 350 LED lights from other building projects have been recycled and installed within the new building. Remaining furniture in the old building was donated rather than being disposed of. 21,600 kg of furniture were given to local communities, therefore preventing 21,000 kg of carbon dioxide emissions. Furthermore, one-third of the new building’s exterior is painted with recycled paint donated by Dulux.

Through incorporation of these sustainable design considerations, the Entopia Building strives to achieve an Outstanding BREEAM certification, which assesses the sustainability of buildings, and a Gold WELL Building Standard, which assesses the impact on health and wellbeing.

The project will cost a total of £12.8 million, with Greentech company Envision Group donating £6 million dollars to support the project, alongside a further £3 million grant from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). Additionally, the University of Cambridge has contributed to the funding of this project, with an internal grant being awarded from CISL’s Energy and Carbon Reduction Project.

The Entopia Building is the product of the close partnership between the University’s Estates Division and several sustainable firms. For instance, the project has engaged Architype, an architectural firm focusing on sustainable building designs. The new building will accommodate CISL’s Cambridge-based staff, who have been working across five different buildings previously.

The Institute also hopes for better coordination of its international operations, such as between its global offices in Brussels and Cape Town with its new headquarters. Digital infrastructure, like state-of-the-art video conferencing facilities will also be installed to facilitate remote working and learning for members of the CISL and executives enrolled in the Institute’s programmes.

An ‘Accelerator and Sustainability Hub’ will also be set up within the building, facilitating entrepreneurship through collaboration opportunities, as well as the exchange of knowledge of sustainability practices between academics and industry leaders.

This project is part of the wider sustainability push within the University. For example, the University’s Environmental Sustainability Vision was introduced in 2015, with goals to reduce Scope 1, 2 and 3 carbon emissions and attain carbon-neutrality by 2050. In the recently published Environmental Sustainability Report for 2019-2020, the University also announced the adoption of Science-Based Targets (SBTs) to provide aegis for reducing carbon usage within the University’s academic estates.


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Dame Polly Courtice, Founder Director of CISL, stated that the Entopia Building project augments the Institute’s “mission to support and inspire the leadership and innovation [required] to transition to a sustainable economy.”

The Entopia Building also strives to be an “international exemplar for sustainable office retrofits”. Lei Zhang, Founder and CEO of Envision Group, hoped that this project would inspire “others to be bolder in pursuing the goal of net zero”.

Zhang also stressed the importance of leadership in spurring a “collective effort” towards sustainability, emphasising the importance of partnerships between international leaders across different sectors in creating a sustainable future.