The Crystal

London, UK

The Crystal is a new forum for debate on sustainable urban living and development. The striking building was commissioned by Siemens and designed by WilkinsonEyre as both an exhibition centre and think tank, exemplifying sustainable design. It sits within East London's Green Enterprise District, which is an area of regeneration in the Royal Docks and is adjacent to WilkinsonEyre's Emirates Air Line cable car terminal at Royal Victoria Dock.

The all-glass building challenges conventional ideas on sustainability, championing the use of advanced technology to minimise energy use. Six different types of highly insulated glass have been used in the cladding, each with varying levels of transparency to moderate solar gain and frame views into and out of the building. Reflective glass is used on the backward-leaning facets to reflect the sun, while transparent glass is used on the inner faces angled towards the ground.

"The all-glass building challenges conventional ideas on sustainability, championing the use of advanced technology to minimise energy use."

This glazed envelope provides the wrapping for a sequence of internal spaces – exhibition areas, conference centre with a 270-seat auditorium, office space and a café – designed in collaboration with interior architects Pringle Brandon Perkins + Will. The extensive display spaces are open to the public and are located to the north of a central circulation space. The more private office and conferencing facilities are home to Siemens' Global Center of Competence Cities. This team of multidisciplinary experts is devoted to the innovative growth of sustainable cities, and is placed to the south with the auditorium enclosed in a bright red shell.

The building has exemplary sustainability credentials, receiving BREEAM Outstanding and LEED Platinum ratings on completion. As a demonstration of sustainable design, it employs a number of new technologies to reduce energy use rather than relying solely on passive systems. Much of its efficiency is therefore due to a sophisticated management system, which allows every element in this all-electric building to be monitored, benchmarked and fine-tuned to minimise energy use. These controls respond not only to the comfort of the users, but also the requirements of the National Grid.