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Sunday Telegraph: An environmentally friendly facelift for Shell Centre

By Sylvia Pfeifer (Filed: 19/03/2006)
Royal Dutch Shell, the oil giant, is putting its embarrassing recent past behind it with a multi-million pound refurbishment of its UK headquarters on the south bank of the Thames in London.
Designed by Sir Howard Robertson and opened in 1963 by the Queen, Shell Centre has dominated the London skyline by Westminster Bridge for more than four decades. It is built on land originally used for the Festival of Britain in 1951 and Shell retains a right to light over the Jubilee Gardens, affording executives panoramic views of the river.
Like many modernist corporate headquarters, Shell Centre is famous for its lavish facilities for staff, including various sculptures and a swimming pool. However, in the wake of the merger of its two separate operating companies, Royal Dutch and Shell Transport & Trading, to create Royal Dutch Shell plc in July 2005, executives have decided to give the company's sprawling offices a much-needed facelift.
Work on the main tower, Shell Tower, will start in June and will see the end of the old conference boardroom, where the boards of the two operating companies used to meet before the merger. The company decided to scrap its historic dual structure after a scandal that saw it writing down its proven oil and gas reserves. The furore led to the departure of its three most senior executives, including Sir Philip Watts, the then chairman. The merged group is listed in London but has its headquarters in The Hague.
The destruction of the historic boardroom will be seen as further evidence of Shell's break with the past. The “conference” – the meetings of the combined boards of the two companies – was symbolic of the oil company's previous -consensus–driven management structure. The boards used to meet around a 10-piece, 35ft table, finished in walnut.
Shell aims to create one of the most modern and environmentally friendly offices in London. The refurbished tower will be designed to minimise energy use while the air coming into the building will be fresh as opposed to the recirculated variety common in older systems. Daylight sensing lights, which dim to maintain optimal lighting levels according to the strength of natural light, will also be installed.
“The creation of Royal Dutch Shell plc, which is now headquartered in The Hague, gives us the opportunity to redesign the Shell Centre to fit its new role as Shell's downstream global headquarters and the offices for the UK country chair and the treasury division of finance,” said a spokesman.

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