At The Bower in Old Street, London, the owner Helical PLC and managing agent Ashdown Phillips ran an innovative tender process that led to the introduction of bio-enzyme cleaning. All products are now distilled on-site, avoiding single-use plastics, cutting carbon emissions and delivering healthier cleaning performance with less use of hazardous chemicals. Following the success of this pilot, the team is now exploring opportunities to rollout bio-enzyme cleaning at additional sites.
90% reduction in CO2 for cleaning
51% reduction in plastic for cleaning
Healthier cleaning for occupiers
Green Apple Award 2021
The Bower is a landmark quarter in Old Street, London, offering 30,000m2 of modern offices and a vibrant restaurant and retail destination. Designed by architects Allford Hall Monaghan Morris, it is owned by Helical and managed by Ashdown Phillips. Both Helical and Ashdown Phillips understand that, as we move towards a net zero carbon world, we need to change how buildings are built and managed. Their sustainability pledge for The Bower includes reducing environmental impacts and improving health and wellbeing.
To support this pledge and their commitment to provide best-in-class services to customers, Ashdown Phillips took a radically different approach to tendering for cleaning services at The Bower. They asked prospective suppliers to complete a series of tasks and challenges, rather than delivering presentations. They also restricted tender teams to CEOs, managing directors and key operational staff, instead of salespeople.
Their aims included:
Through this process, Green Zone Cleaning and Support Services Ltd were reappointed at The Bower. Their commitment to sustainability and plans for bio-enzyme cleaning were deciding factors.
The Bower had already switched from chemical-based to plant-based cleaning products. However, these still generate environmental impacts, as crops are grown, harvested and then manufactured into products and transported, usually in single-use plastic containers.
Through the new bio-enzyme cleaning regime, super-concentrated solution is now delivered to The Bower, where a small distillery has been created on site. Connected to the water system, this distillery automatically converts five litres of solution into 50 litres of cleaning product. This means that bio-enzyme cleaning products are now produced at The Bower and bottled in reused plastic containers.
Bio-enzyme cleaning products use non-pathogenic ‘good’ bacteria to digest dirt, debris and odours. The bacteria do this by producing enzymes that break down certain molecules (waste) into smaller pieces that are then consumed by the bacteria. The ‘good’ bacteria continue to grow and consume the waste until their food supply diminishes – that is, the waste – is gone. This means that when bio-enzyme cleaning products are on a surface, they can continue to work after cleaning has ended, breaking down dirt, debris and viral particles. This is particularly valuable in a global pandemic, when cleaning teams using chemical products have to revisit touchpoints every 15 to 30 minutes, which is harmful for the environment.
Where there are specific waste types, such as grease, cleaning materials can also be formulated with specific enzymes that are known to break them down. In washrooms, specialist bio-enzyme cleaners can be highly effective in mitigating urine odours and other smells.
The introduction of bio-enzyme cleaning at The Bower was cost neutral. The service agreement costs remain the same but, as products continue acting for longer, this has freed up time for the cleaning team to spend longer in frequently used areas.
Bio-enzyme cleaning brings significant benefits versus traditional cleaning practices, as outlined below. This supports the sustainability goals of Helical, Ashdown Phillips and occupiers at The Bower.
How do you reassure people that it’s okay to put bacteria on a surface?
Bio-enzyme cleaning uses ‘good’ bacteria. Talking about using bacteria for cleaning does tend to raise eyebrows. However, when the facilities team at The Bower engaged with occupiers on how bio-enzyme cleaning works and shared statistics on its environmental and performance benefits, there was widespread support. They did this through Green Group meetings, which bring together interested occupiers quarterly, and via online communications, such as e-newsletters and a sustainability report. Many occupiers at The Bower are audited and accredited on their sustainability credentials. So, they welcome information on initiatives such as low carbon cleaning. Green Zone is now in discussions with occupiers about bio-enzyme cleaning in their areas.
How do you continue to expand best practice in sustainable cleaning?
Ashdown Phillips and Green Zone have already introduced cleaning trolleys made from 96% recycled materials and suction cleaners that retain micro-particles and allergens. They are also restricting the use of bin liners in bins wherever feasible, switching to more frequent bin washing. Where they do use refuse sacks, these are 97% recycled polythene, all UK-derived. Additional opportunities they are investigating include daytime cleaning to reduce energy consumption and occupier events to highlight the impact of recycling and waste minimisation. They are also in discussions to engage Social Value Portal to assess sustainability impacts across the whole building. This would go beyond cleaning and look at the impact of recycling, energy efficiency and community activities at The Bower.
1. All environmental benefits based on actual performance in the first six months.
Gary Metcalf, Estate Facilities Manager at The Bower
“The days of facilities managers and site managing agents essentially sitting in basements keeping the lights, heating and cooling on are over. We are responsible for the operational running of massive carbon emitters that influence the wellbeing of many people every day. This means taking new approaches and working in partnership with owners such as Helical, occupiers and suppliers. The results at The Bower show the huge potential environmental and health benefits of challenging the norms.”