The huge task of retrofitting UK buildings could offer three decades of work for architects, and overshadow new-builds by 2050
Speaking at an AJ100 Breakfast Club meeting last week, CABE chair Paul Finch said: ‘There are more than 25 million homes in Britain, most of which do not conform to current environmental standards. If we retrofit 4,000 homes per week,
it would give us 30 years worth of work. If you choose to seize it, this is one of the biggest opportunities for architects that we’ve seen in this country for a very long time.’
KPF director John Bushell, who led the award-winning retrofit of the 1930s Unilever House in London, said: ‘Unfortunately, I don’t think [architects] are as well placed as [they] should be. With only a few exceptions, architects are being overtaken by engineers because they can look at the performance of the envelope and turn it into an engineering discussion.’
However, Bushell thinks architects could outflank engineers if they learned to employ calculated comparisons, such as envelope and plant performance, when they pitch retrofits to clients.
Julian Lipscombe of Bennetts Associates, which completed the retrofit of Hampshire County Council’s offices in Winchester, said: ‘If the architectural profession is prepared to engage with it fully, we can form a leading role in the retrofit movement. In the current economic climate this is the best opportunity for architects to actually build exciting projects.’
Mark Siddall of Devereux Architects, who recently won Retrofit for the Future funding for three schemes in Sunderland, estimated that carbon emissions could be reduced by 20 per cent by rolling out a standardised model for retrofitting, which he developed, to 20 million ‘suitable’ properties in the UK.
RIBA president Ruth Reed said: ‘The advantage that architects have is that they can come up with the radical ideas we need to do wholesale retrofitting.’
Do you think retrofit will overshadow newbuild by 2050?