Co.Design

Almost Genius: BP Tries To Build "Sustainable" Office For Rotterdam Refinery

Keyword: try.

BP has unveiled slick new offices for its Rotterdam refinery (RR), the largest and youngest oil processing plant in the Netherlands. The goal here, according to the architects, Rotterdam-based Group A, was to provide a "building that expresses and accommodates the objectives of the company, including providing a sustainable, safe and healthy working environment…" Let’s repeat that: "sustainable, safe and healthy." BP. The guys behind the largest accidental oil spill in history. Go ahead, retch.

We suppose if you have to build an oil refinery, and you have to staff it, you might as well give employees a pleasant place to work. Group A has certainly whipped up an attractive building. It’s got lots of natural light. It has pretty timber slats on the walls designed to "evoke an association with geological layers; a reference to the business activities of BP RR" (a stretch, but okay). And it has conference rooms in cool, cantilevered "skyboxes" perched over the atrium. Group A’s press release doesn’t offer much specific evidence of a "sustainable" workplace, though, except for this: one side of the building faces the green, watery landscape of Brielle lake (the other side faces the refinery); and they’ve built an artificial dune to guard against possible explosions at the plant. A welcome gesture, seeing as how BP is rather accident prone.

So that’s good news. Employees won’t die in a fiery blast. Still, the project feels a bit like making a comfortable electric chair. Sure, you can appreciate the kernel of humanity that went into it. But all the padding and ergonomic tweaks in the world do little to detract from the ultimate purpose. An electric chair kills people. And BP is, well, BP.

[Images courtesy of Group A]

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5 Comments

  • James D

    If this building was for any other company you'd praise it. Please leave the preaching at the door.

    (not a huge fan of BP, but please try to be objective)

  • Alex

     Could we have at least put a note that this is an opinion column somewhere near that headline? I've got no particular love for BP's shenanigan's myself, but you blast someone else for not offering evidence and then go right ahead and base your whole argument on what amounts to "everybody hates BP! right guys?"  If you're going to write an article about how this building fell short of being sustainable, let's focus on the building, not the company and let's actually hear something about how or why you think the building isn't living up to it's goals.

  • Bubba

    What BP has done here does not even come close to what they have destroyed in our environment, their entire business is about stripping the earth of it's natural resources any way it can at a minimal cost at a
    enormous profit for their share holders. Nothing BP does is about sustainability.

  • jamey boiter

    thanks, suzanne! and nice try, bp. glad employees will be safer, and be in a nice environment, but i don't believe this to be anything more than an expensive stunt to try and recover credibility. perhaps in 5 or 10 years of spending billions to actually improve and change your guiding principles and repair the damage you have already done to the environment, i may begin to believe the tenets of the "helios"again. not now.