Building of the week: Brent civic centre

The Brent Civic Centre is Britain’s greenest public building. It’s certainly the only one to be judged ‘outstanding’ by BREEAM. On a site next to Wembley Stadium, Brent council took operations that had previously been scattered across 14 different buildings and brought them all together in one new one. 2,000 staff work out of the building, which includes offices, a library, gallery and exhibition spaces, and lots of rooms for events.


The building is fitted out with smart heating and ventilation systems, controlled by a central computer that tracks the building’s needs and can open and close windows automatically. Exposed concrete surfaces are designed to absorb warmth during the day and store it, and a high performance facade keeps it in. Solar shading prevents overheating in the summer, and the planted balconies and gardens aim to enhance biodiversity in the immediate area.

Winter warmth is provided by a combined heat and power unit that runs on waste-derived biofuel. Apparently it can use 11 different biofuels, and the current contract is with a company that makes them from waste fish oil.

The combined efficiencies of the building will save the council £2.5 million a year, and the variety of conference, event and wedding spaces will also generate income. It’s a smart move towards financial sustainability in one of London’s more deprived boroughs.

One reason for mentioning Brent this week is that the building includes The Drum, which is hosting the two day Justice Conference on the 2nd and 3rd of November. I’ll be joining a Tearfund panel discussion on the restorative economy. I’m looking forward to the event, and to mooching around the civic centre while I’m there.


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