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Fosters, Grimshaw and Heatherwick join AJ RetroFirst campaign

Retrofirst demands all

Foster + Partners, Grimshaw and Heatherwick Studios are among the latest names to throw their weight behind the AJ RetroFirst campaign

The firms join a growing number of architects and organisations who are backing the AJ’s call for the government to promote and incentivise the reuse of existing buildings as a key means of tackling the climate emergency.

RetroFirst, which was launched at the AJ’s annual Retrofit Awards in September and continues to be developed, calls for government action in three key areas: tax, procurement and policy.

Explaining why Foster + Partners was supporting the campaign, the practice’s head of design Spencer de Grey, said: ‘The AJ RetroFirst campaign addresses a critical issue: focusing on the reuse and refurbishment of existing buildings as a means to reduce carbon emissions. It is a topic that needs to be tackled at all levels, from policy to application.’

We offer our wholehearted support to the campaign

He added: ‘The World Green Building Council’s recent report Bringing Embodied Carbon Upfront calls for all new buildings to have 40 per cent less embodied carbon by 2030. The very act of refurbishing an existing building broadly achieves that target. We offer our wholehearted support to the campaign and look forward to learning about its results.’

Thomas Heatherwick, founder of Heatherwick Studio, said: ’Reusing old buildings doesn’t just reduce carbon emissions and waste, it also tends to make more soulful places.

’Rather than totally obliterating and reconstructing pieces of city with sterile new buildings, there is a chance to be more exciting and relevant to our time; making more meaningful places by fixing and reinventing them; simultaneously bringing potential and true benefit to our planet. Governments around the world should immediately incentivise this.’

The campaign has already been endorsed by a number of RIBA Stirling Prize-winning architectural practices and the AJ is encouraging firms of all sizes from across the UK to do the same.

In addition, as part of a new series looking at the challenges and opportunities of retrofit projects, we would also like to hear from architects who have managed to convince their clients to refurbish and reuse rather than demolish.

How you can get involved

Follow the progress of RetroFirst using #retrofirst on social media
Contact us at retrofirst@emap.com to back the campaign


Campaign supporters


  • Architects’ Climate Action Network
  • RIBA
  • Historic Environment Scotland
  • Town & Country Planning Association (TCPA)
  • Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB)
  • UK Green Building Council


  • Alison Brooks Architects
  • Amos Goldreich Architecture
  • Allford Hall Monaghan Morris (AHMM)
  • Allies and Morrison
  • Architype
  • Bennetts Associates
  • Boano Prišmontas
  • Bryden Wood
  • BuckleyGrayYeoman
  • Caruso St John Architects
  • Connolly Wellingham Architects
  • Curl La Tourelle Head Architecture
  • DNA Architecture
  • ECD Architects
  • e-gg
  • Feix&Merlin
  • Foster + Partners
  • Gardner Stewart Architects
  • Gort Scott
  • Grimshaw
  • Heatherwick Studio
  • Henley Halebrown
  • Haworth Tompkins
  • Ian Ritchie Architects
  • Jestico + Whiles
  • LTS Architects
  • Morrow + Lorraine Architects
  • Paul Testa Architecture
  • Penoyre & Prasad
  • Robert Rhodes Architecture + Interiors
  • Scott Brownrigg
  • Stephen Taylor Architects
  • Steve Ritchie Partnership
  • Sarah Wigglesworth Architects
  • Syndicate West Architects
  • Type3 Studio
  • Ullmayer Sylvester Architects
  • Whittaker Parsons
  • Witherford Watson Mann


  • Clara Bagenal George, Elementa Consulting
  • Hero Bennett, Max Fordham
  • Duncan Baker-Brown, BBM Sustainable Design
  • Emma Dent Coad, MP for Kensington
  • Kelly Harrison, Heyne Tillett Steele
  • Joe Holyoak, architect and urban designer
  • Walter Menteth, architect and procurement reform campaigner
  • Alice Moncaster, senior lecturer at School of Engineering and Innovation at The Open University
  • David Ness, adjunct professor at the School of Natural and Built Environments, University of South Australia
  • Paul O’Neil, Bryden Wood
  • Simon Sturgis, Targeting Zero
  • James Traynor, ECD Architects



RetroFirst Logos 2019 3

RetroFirst Logos 2019 3




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Readers' comments (2)

  • Rather surprising to see Heatherwick's name here, because he needs to be kept away from meddling with historic buildings for fear of abusing them.

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  • Clare Richards

    I whole-heartedly support the campaign. The UN’s sustainable development goals are the basis of our planning policy, at item 2 of the NPPF, with a ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’. So far so good.

    But what about social sustainability?

    Let’s not forget that there are 3 Sustainable Development Objectives, not just 1: ‘economic’, ‘social’ and ‘environmental’. In fact 9 of the 17 UN ‘goals’ have a social dimension. Yet for those working with the built environment (whether designers, developers, planners, politicians) social sustainability is the poor, neglected relation.

    So here’s a quick reminder of the ’social objective’: ‘to support strong, vibrant and healthy communities, by ensuring that a sufficient number and range of homes can be provided to meet the needs of present and future generations; and by fostering a well-designed and safe built environment, with accessible services and open spaces that reflect current and future needs and support communities’ health, social and cultural well-being’.

    The RetroFirst Campaign might, nevertheless, help bring about a key social benefit with regards to estate regeneration: an end to the knee-jerk presumption in favour of demolition and its knock-on effects of displacement and poor integration. Several of us fought hard for this as ‘participants’ in the New London Plan EiP (evaluation in public).

    You need to make a noise about this too, AJ.

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