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EDITOR’S BLOG by Fiona Keating

Walking through the Shoreditch streets during the summer always gives me a thrill. I love the London Overground, or the Orange line as it is affectionately called. I was making my way to the Black & White building in Rivington Street, for my first London Society tour. Pretty exciting stuff! This was an incredibly important tour as it focused largely on the topic of the day – if not the century – sustainability.

Completed in January 2023, the Black & White Building is the tallest engineered timber office building in central London. Which is appropriate enough as in the 19th century, Shoreditch was a main player in the furniture industry.

The UK needs to at least double its low carbon investment if it is to achieve net zero by 2050. Is it possible? Are we all doomed? Everyone needs to do their bit, and perhaps using sustainable timber is part of the solution.

So, here I am in front of the Black & White Building, owned by The Office Group (TOG), who hired Waugh Thistleton Architects, who chose a combination of beech, pine and spruce timber for the build.

There are about 20 of us in the group, and we are all gathered in the main courtyard looking up at the fabulous façade. We are met by Dave Lomax, lead architect of the project, who is an absolutely stacked timber yard of information on the building. Throughout the tour he is peppered with a succession of quick-fire questions from us, which he doesn’t hesitate in answering.

But there is one favourite question that he is asked time and again. “I often get asked how high can you build. I find that slightly irksome,” he teases. “We can come back to that if anybody is brave enough to ask later! But there's absolutely no reason we can't be building between six and twelve storeys as a matter of course.”

It’s a fascinating tour around the building, and the roof garden gives wonderful views of the London landscape. Walking down the stairs, you can smell the wood. And there is something about the smell of wood. The Journal of the Japan Wood Research Society reports that wood can have a comfort enhancing effect in humans.

The Japanese term Shinrin-yoku means “taking in the forest atmosphere through all of our senses”, for health and in 1984, an American clinical psychologist coined the term Technostress. Treatment included nature therapy, and relaxation by exposure to natural stimuli from forests and natural wooden materials.

Whether you believe in this or not, The Black & White Building is an elegant structure, and as more and more people are heading back to the daily London commute, this office is a treat to visit, and I for one would be more than happy to work there.

If you were on the tour or have any comments please email or call Fiona Keating at 07812 169130