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Telephone House, Edinburgh

Office refurbishment and energy monitoring through BEMS


Telephone House was constructed for BT in 1973 to provide a telephone exchange and open plan office accommodation.

Refurbishment work was undertaken in the early 1980’s to improve energy efficiency and working conditions for staff.

The building was of cruciform plan, with two seven-storey and two six-storey wings. The wings were 12.5 metres wide, allowing for natural ventilation. Mechanical ventilation was provided only in the canteen and air-conditioning in the computer suites.


The main refurbishment measures were:

  • Replacement of the flat roof covering (due to deterioration) plus the upgrade of insulation levels.
  • Installation of secondary glazing panels inside the existing single glazed metal framed windows.
  • Replacement lighting and wider controls
  • Installation of a Building Energy Management System (BEMS)


Gas consumption for space heating and domestic hot water was reduced by more than 40%. Electricity consumption for lighting also fell. Based on monitoring from October 1990 to September 1991, 978,000kWh of gas and 1.4million kWh of electricity were consumed. Just less than a third of all electricity was used within the computer room.

The BEMS monitored and largely controlled all heating, cooling and mechanical ventilation within the building. There were 29 zones, all with daily heating schedules, related to the expected occupancy patterns. Data handling allowed the detection of trends for quick analysis of energy consumption.


In comparison with best practice values of the time (Energy Consumption Guide 19) the total energy consumption within the building was slightly greater. This was felt to be due to the above average use of office equipment (computers on every desk!). Gas consumption was considerably better than ‘typical’ offices of this type.

Permission to demolish Telephone House was sought in 2010; the site remains undeveloped.




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