Believe in Better Building, as the name suggests, explains how Arup Associates managed to build a timber marvel in itself. The structure from Isleworth, United Kingdom is the 1st tallest commercial building in the UK. The contribution from the integrated team of the Architect, engineer, contractor, and client has helped make this building. The building is designed for Sky, a leading Broadcaster and Telecommunication company in Europe. Believe in Better building is the first tallest commercial timber structure in the United Kingdom.

Believe in Better Building by Arup Associates and Arup - Sheet1
Believe in Better Building_©
Believe in Better Building by Arup Associates and Arup - Sheet2
Believe in Better Building_©Simon Kennedy

Ideology | Better Building

This project aimed to create a space that would be more than just a training base. It would pursue a prime inspiration for Sky’s corporate values and long-term sustainability goals. Along with this, the spaces would be flexible to cater to the many needs of its users. Arup Associates believe that, ‘good architecture should understand the lives and priorities of those who use it.’ Both of these ideologies have helped to make a structure that is not bound to the expectations of typical office space, it goes beyond those boundaries to achieve a sustainable, collaborative and free space.

Design Challenge:

Sky wanted to redevelop its campus headquarters just in time before its 25th-anniversary celebrations. They had a, ‘Believe in Better’ schools outreach program and academy training facilities, for which they wanted a space that would stand for the beliefs and values of their company. The project is much appreciated for having the structure built in a year. The planning stage was completed in a short span of three months and the rest was for the execution of the project on the site. The transition from drawings on paper to the actual building was completed in a year. Even though the team had a time crunch, the execution and the outcome exceed the expectations of the conjecture of the project.


As the first multi-storeyed timber commercial office, there are many aspects covered in this project. One can learn about the optimization of spaces, the selection of materials, and how to work things out viably. Part of the brief asked for adaptable and flexible spaces; envisioned by the team as Open-plans, so that the users would have the ability to make maximum use of the area depending on the requisite. The main spaces were not designed with a prenotion of a desired place. Hence, the provision of partition sliding and unfolding is present to interconnect creative thinking rooms and party spaces alternating as informal gathering spaces, mingling and collaborating spaces. An open-plan, with column-free space accustomed to large meeting and gathering areas as and when required. The partition is designed in a way that it acts as an acoustic separation.

The planning resulting from this brief was interesting in terms of spatial quality. The open plans gave a new definition to a workplace. The free-flowing movement in the column-free area encourages social culture, enhances the well-being of the users, and yet the liberty is given to the users to define the space fitting the environment at different parts of the day, week, and month. That shows how the spatial aspect of this open plan aids the users to engage with that domain. The simplicity of the plan is reflected through a basic understanding of the activity pattern of the users and the visitors; through the placement of the staircase.

“The stair is a unifying gesture, that links the three stories and makes the building easy to navigate for users, many of whom will never have visited before.” – Arup.

Believe in Better Building by Arup Associates and Arup - Sheet4
Staircase_©Simon Kennedy
Believe in Better Building by Arup Associates and Arup - Sheet3
First and Second Floor interactive space_©Simon Kennedy
Believe in Better Building by Arup Associates and Arup - Sheet5
Framing of the building_©

The open staircase rises through the triple-height atrium to the rooftop terrace and restaurant. Although from the ground floor it might appear that the staircase directly leads to the third floor, some breakouts provide circulation and maintain visual communication across the floors. This unifying feature brings each of the 4 stories together, this detail adds to the beauty of the building.

The use of Timber as a significant material has given character to the structure. Timber is strategically used because it is a sustainable option. It is incredibly strong yet lightweight and in addition, minding the duration of the project, timber primarily facilitated the speed of the construction. There are different advantages of using timber:

  1. Easy installation process: As the material is dry compared to steel, the installation process is quick and easy. The prefabrication of the members can be done off-site and assembled when on-site. This process can happen simultaneously saving time.
  2. Gluing the parts: With advancements in timber construction, the gluing process has evolved too. It has become an easy and hassle-free job; different and small pieces of Timber can be glued together that would help avoid wastage of material. In this case, different log pieces can make a huge element that could be used in the structure.
  3. Finishes: Timber being an aesthetically appealing material requires no added finishes. The exposed look of timber creates a holistic and inclusive feeling to the space.
Gluing of parts_©
Finish of Timber_©

The cost and time were saved by using Timber as the material. Arup Associates have made the most of the project by keeping their material palette to a minimum of 3 materials, i.e., timber, glass, and rain-screen panels.

Sky’s commitment as a carbon-neutral company has been reflected in this structure as well. This building has incorporated extensive environmental innovation. This building achieved BREEAM excellent rating. The building compliances with the ethos of Sky’s commitment and demonstrated bettering 15% reduction in embodied carbon and significantly beyond zero embodied carbon. The technical aspects of this project have been systematically developed, helping them work towards long-term energy efficiency.                  

Rain Screen Panels_©
Rain Screen Panels_©

All of these elements together have resulted in a functional yet beautiful outcome in the form of this building. A building that creates, celebrates, and expresses organizational and social interactions.

A place for the people.

Conclusion | Better Building

Arup associates and Arup have notable works, that demonstrate how architecture and engineering fit together. The users and their activity mapping have assisted in the planning of the building. Optimization of space is coherent, so is the segregation wherever necessary. The Believe in Better Building is an admirable project, not only because of the aesthetics of the browns but also acknowledging the time duration given for the project to be complete.



Nirantari is an Architecture student, with an interest in Art and Architecture. She believes that art, architecture, and people have a peculiar relation and is trying to put that in words.