Saw Swee Hock building external
View of SAW rooftop terrace, PVs and green roof

About the building

Designed by architects O'Donnell + Tuomey and built by Osborne Construction, the £25.2 million Saw Swee Hock Student Centre (SAW) achieved  BREEAM 'Outstanding' rating at the design stage with a score of 86.45%.

The first new building that LSE has commissioned in more than 40 years, the new Student Centre was constructed on the site of the old St Philips building on Sheffield Street, next to the Peacock Theatre in central London.

The Centre is a seven storey development providing a mixture of facilities within a sustainable building envelope. These include the Students’ union, a learning café, faith centre, exercise studio, coffee bar, fitness centre, media centre, activities space and LSE’s Career services. The envelope consists of a mixture of solid and latticed, locally sourced red brick that will provide a variety of lighting effects internally and externally. 

Completed early in 2014, the building is characterised by its irregular faceted facades built in red brick, a design generated by the geometrics of the confined corner site.


Outstanding sustainability experience

  • The first city-centre university building to achieve BREEAM Outstanding design stage.
  • A unique and iconic building
  • Provides students, staff and visitors with an immersive, lived experience of a highly sustainable building.  

A Living Lab for Sustainability

LSE is a global institution, whose motto is 'understanding the causes of things', this is manifested in the SAW building.

Occupants are actively drawn into the life of the building through ongoing engagement.

Users get the best from the building whilst minimising energy, waste and water.

Induction tours for all building users;
Live LED screen displays of water and energy consumption;

Online building user guide|;

Posters displayed throughout the building explaining key features;

Unique aesthetics combined with sustainability features.  


Student feedback

  • The design of the building is very inspiring. The fact that they could fit such a building into such a small space makes you feel like anything is possible.
  • I feel like LSE has been re-vamped through this building.
  • Before I thought the campus was really small and seemed like a maze. This building makes it seem more modern and new. The new gym is incredible, and it’s a great building to showcase in terms of attracting new students.
  • I wouldn’t have come to campus today if it wasn’t here. It’s so much better than the old student building which I didn’t use at all. This is a big step up.
  • With the new Student Centre, I feel like LSE has more of a campus, whereas before you had to actively seek out a campus feel with other people you didn’t directly know. It’s now easier to meet other people.
  • All the spaces have been well thought-out. It’s the building I come to at the start of the day. It’s also easy to access.
  • It’s really good communal space where you can work and socialize

Respect for nature and society

Rainwater and greywater flushes WCs
Low-flush WCs.
Infrared sensor-controlled taps.

60-year lifecycle.
Responsibly sourced construction.
Cleaning impact minimised by choice of hard-wearing flooring and cleaning product specs. 

Traffic and pollution
Zero car parking spaces.

Green roof
Trees and raised planters on roof.
Bat boxes and bird boxes

254 m2 of solar PVs on roof.
Two 60 kW gas-fired CHP units
100% natural ventilation
Natural light used wherever possible; 100% of artificial lighting is LED.
Building controls balance sophisticated BMS automation with manual operation for user-comfort.

Key facts

BREEAM Rating: 'Outstanding' at the design stage 
Score:  86.45%
Stage:  Design stage
BREEAM Version  Education 2008
Basic building cost £/m²  £3,953/m²
Services costs £/m²  £960/²
External works  £/m²  £30/m²
Gross floor area m²  6,100m²
Total area of site - hectares   0.116 hectares approximately
Function areas and their size m² 
(these approximate areas
exclude sanitary and circulation
Venue: 540m²
Pub: 6,100m²
Student Activity Centre: 117m²
Café: 267m²
Interfaith Prayer Centre: 121m²
Student Media Centre: 121m²
Main SU Facilities: 628m²
Fitness Centre: 330m²
Careers Centre: 287m²
Dance Studio: 92m²
Coffee/Juice Bar: 87m²
Roof Terrace: 115m²
Area of circulation  1,150m² approximately
Area of storage m²  175m² approximately (excluding cleaners cupboards, lockers, recycling, local room storage etc). 
% area of grounds to be used by community  15% includes side access lane to pub and main entrance (public space expressed as a percentage of the overall site area). 
% area of buildings to be used by community  23% includes The Venue, Pub, Café, Juice Bar, Faith Centre.  Areas are expressed as a percentage of the overall building area, which is approximately 6,0666m² 
Predicted electricity consumption kWh/m²  35.08 kWh/m²  
Predicted fossil fuel consumption kWh/m²   36.85 kWh/m²  
Predicted renewable energy generation kWh/m²   11.68 kWh/m²  
Predicted water use - m³/person/year   to be advised
% predicted water use - m³/person/year   to be advised
EPC Rating on completion  24A

Overview of green strategy

Close collaboration, both within the project team and with the client, has been key to the creation of a highly sustainable, BREEAM Outstanding building. BREEAM workshops were held and considerable care taken with the selection and management of the supply chain to support this.

The design team took a particularly proactive role. Sustainability measures incorporated into the design include a combined heat and power unit (CHP) to generate both heat and electricity, photovoltaic (PV) panels on the roof, and a rainwater/greywater harvesting system to reduce water consumption. The design also facilitates natural ventilation and cooling.

The construction phase had a strong focus on managing energy, water and waste streams and minimising consumption – exceeding standards of best practice in site management.

The site team harvested rainwater for use whilst construction was in progress. They also used Twitter to keep the general public, including students who will use the building, updated on progress.

Environmental features

The building’s key environmental features include:

  • An LED screen in the ground floor foyer displaying dynamic information relating to the PV, CHP and integrated water harvesting systems, and the DEC rating (after a year of operation).
  • A 254m2 PV system that contributes to reducing of CO2 emissions by 32.3%, when compared to the building regulations’ Target Emission Rate.
  • Extremely efficient boilers and CHP systems that meet the energy heating demand whilst also minimising NOx emissions (less than 40 mg/KWh).
  • Use of propane as the refrigerant for all chillers in the building to reduce CFC use.
  • WCs with 4.5 litre flushes and delayed fill valves, taps with flow rate restrictors, showers limited to a maximum flow of 9 litres/minute, and toilets with presence detectors so that water only flows when they are in use.
  • A detailed building management system (BMS) integrated into data displays on each floor, which also integrates with LSE’s existing BMS.
  • Use of the building’s design to promote night-time heat purging for cooling and natural ventilation.
  • Perforated bricks locally sourced from Coleford in Gloucestershire, which through varied finishes provide interesting lighting and notable solar gain that has a positive influence on the BMS.
  • A staggered eastern façade (and main entrance) to aid ventilation and lighting, and to ensure that lighting to existing buildings has not been compromised.
  • A reclaimed water system that collects water from the recycled rainwater and greywater drainage systems.
  • A green roof seeded with 12 sedum species to provide wildlife habitat and allow the continuity of green space through the urban environment.
  • Landscaped roof terrace, consisting of five raised planters containing native trees, shrubs and bulbs

The BREEAM assessment

The development scored highly in most issues covered by the BREEAM assessment, notably achieving 100% of the available credits in the Management, Transport and Water categories, as well as 80% of the credits for Land Use & Ecology.

Project team details

    • Client: London School of Economics and Political Science
    • Architect: O’Donnell + Tuomey
    • Lead contractor: Osborne
    • Structural engineer: Dewhurst Macfarlane
    • M&E consultant: BDSP
    • Quantity surveyor: Northcroft
    • Project Managers:Turner and Townsend
    • BREEAM assessor: Irena Saniuk, BSRIA