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More top industry names get behind RetroFirst campaign

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Property giant British Land and architect and TV presenter George Clarke are among the latest to sign up to AJ’s reuse campaign

RetroFirst, which was launched last September at the AJ’s annual Retrofit Awards, responds to the climate emergency and calls for government action to slash embodied carbon emissions in construction by encouraging greater use of retrofit and refurbishment in three key areas: VAT/tax, policy and procurement.

While architects and the RIBA quickly rallied to support it, others in the built environment, including leading developers and engineers, are now voicing their support ahead of the campaign being submitted to government.

Nigel Webb, head of development at British Land – one of the UK’s largest property firms – said: ‘RetroFirst is a forward-thinking initiative which we believe can make a real difference to the impact our industry has on the environment.

‘As a developer, we have a responsibility – but also a huge opportunity – to be innovative in the way we build to tackle carbon emissions.

‘As we have seen at our 1 Triton Square refurbishment project, demolition and rebuild isn’t always the answer. We’ve challenged standard approaches, reusing as many existing materials and components as possible, minimising embodied and operational carbon, reducing costs and expediting the development process – all while creating a modern and sustainable space for our customers.’

Clarke, who has been forthright about the threat of climate emergency, said: ‘We have over 25 million existing homes in this country, the majority of which don’t come anywhere near to meeting the current building regulations.

‘When you do the maths and recognise that new-build housing contributes fewer than 220,000 homes per year (all of which should be zero-carbon), your realise that tackling our existing housing stock is key to tackling the ecological crisis. And retrofitting existing homes will help reduce the staggering increase in fuel poverty.’

Other leading firms to have signed up in recent days include developer Igloo Regeneration and engineering consultants Hoare Lea, WSP, Cundall, and Price & Myers.

WSP director Andrew Bickerdyke said a decarbonised built environment would only be achieved through collaboration, knowledge-sharing and holding each other accountable’.

He added: ‘The RetroFirst campaign is a necessary step forward to achieve this and as our Rethink Retrofit research states, it’s now not a case of if, but when to take action.

‘WSP’s research also shows clearly that the benefits of retrofit go far beyond just environmental: increased wellbeing, social cohesion, productivity and regeneration quickly follow if a retrofit project is done well.’

Igloo’s executive chairman Chris Brown said: ’In this emergency we need to stop doing things that cause climate change. Like new development that generates greenhouse gases in its production.

’And the biggest challenge is making our existing buildings energy efficient. So eco-retrofit is a no brainer.’

Last month RetroFirst was also endorsed by the final report of the Building Better Building Beautiful Commission, while other property developers supporting it include U+I, FORE, Trilogy Real Estate, Capital & Centric and the Ethical Property Company. Recent architect signatories include Pollard Thomas Edwards.

Further comments

Ashley Bateson, partner at Hoare Lea  ‘It is crucial that the property sector focuses on upgrading existing buildings and maximising refurbishment opportunities wherever possible.

’If we are to achieve our objectives of limiting climate change and getting to net zero emissions we need to make sure we get the best performance from the buildings we’ve already constructed. We are pleased to support the AJ’s pioneering RetroFirst campaign.’ 

Simon Wyatt, sustainability partner at Cundall ‘ Given the urgent need to achieve net-zero carbon buildings, retrofit offers both the greatest challenge and greatest opportunity. Considering that over 80 per cent of the existing building stock will still be in use in 2050, the importance of deep retrofit cannot be underestimated.

‘We must therefore consider the whole life carbon of a project, including all up-front carbon associated with the initial build, the energy during operation, as well as for maintenance, fit-outs, minor and major refurbishments, deconstruction and the reuse of building materials.

‘All this must be considered over an appropriate design life, allowing for durability and robustness. When we do this, the case for #RetroFirst becomes clear.’  

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

Built environment companies and organisations

  • Anthropocene Architecture School
  • Architects’ Climate Action Network (ACAN)
  • British Land
  • Capital + Centric
  • Cundall
  • Edinburgh World Heritage
  • FORE
  • Hearth Historic Buildings Trust
  • Historic Environment Scotland
  • Hoare Lea
  • London Waste & Recycling Board (LWARB)
  • Paradigm Land
  • Price & Myers
  • RIBA
  • SAVE Britain’s Heritage
  • Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB)
  • Town & Country Planning Association (TCPA)
  • Trilogy Real Estate
  • The Twentieth Century Society
  • The Victorian Society
  • U+I
  • UK Green Building Council
  • WSP

Architect practices

  • 3D Reid
  • 5th Studio
  • 50.8 Architecture & Interiors
  • aad architects
  • ADP Architecture
  • Alison Brooks Architects
  • Amos Goldreich Architecture
  • Andris Berzins + Associates
  • Allford Hall Monaghan Morris (AHMM)
  • Allies and Morrison
  • Architectural Emporium
  • Architecture Initiative
  • Architype
  • Assael Architecture
  • Assorted Skills + Talents*
  • AWW
  • Barr Gazetas
  • BBM Sustainable Design
  • Belsize Architects
  • Ben Adams Architects
  • Bennetts Associates
  • Boano Prišmontas
  • Brimelow McSweeney Architects
  • Bryden Wood
  • BuckleyGrayYeoman
  • Buttress
  • Caruso St John Architects
  • Child Graddon Lewis
  • Chris Dyson Architects
  • Clare Nash Architecture
  • CMA
  • Connolly Wellingham Architects
  • Cousins and Cousins
  • Curl La Tourelle Head Architecture
  • Daria Wong Architects
  • Darling Associates
  • DarntonB3 Architecture
  • David Chipperfield Architects
  • DLG Architects
  • DNA Architecture
  • Donald Insall Associates
  • Downs Merrifield Architects
  • Dress for the Weather
  • dRMM 
  • ECD Architects
  • ECE Architecture
  • e-gg
  • EPR Architects
  • Featherstone Young
  • Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios
  • Feix&Merlin
  • Foster + Partners
  • Freehaus
  • Gardner Stewart Architects
  • Gensler
  • Glenn Howells Architects
  • Gort Scott
  • gpad london
  • Grimshaw
  • Group Ginger
  • Heatherwick Studio
  • Henley Halebrown
  • Heritage Architecture
  • Hawkins\Brown
  • Haworth Tompkins
  • Hills & Co
  • Hopkins
  • HPA Architecture
  • HÛT
  • Hutchinson & Partners
  • Ian Ritchie Architects
  • Jestico + Whiles
  • John Robertson Architects
  • JTP
  • Kendall Kingscott
  • Knott Architects
  • LTS Architects
  • LYN Atelier
  • MAP Architecture
  • MawsonKerr Architects
  • MAX Architects
  • McMullan Studio
  • Mike Daubney Architects
  • Mikhail Riches
  • Morrow + Lorraine Architects
  • Morse Webb Architects
  • MTBA Associates, Ottawa, Canada
  • Murphy Associates
  • Neu Architects
  • New Practice
  • Nicola de Quincey architecture + conservation
  • O’Donnell + Tuomey
  • Owen Ellis Architects
  • Page\Park Architects
  • Parkes Poole Architects
  • Paul Testa Architecture
  • PDP London
  • Peak Architects
  • Penoyre & Prasad
  • Piercy & Company Architects
  • Pollard Thomas Edwards
  • PPIY Architects
  • Procter-Rihl
  • PRP
  • Purcell
  • Robert Dye Architects
  • Robert Rhodes Architecture + Interiors
  • Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners
  • Sarah Wigglesworth Architects
  • Scott Brownrigg
  • ShedKM
  • Sow Space
  • Stephen Taylor Architects
  • Steve Ritchie Partnership
  • Simone de Gale Architects
  • Simpson & Brown
  • Square One Architects
  • Stiff + Trevillion Architects 
  • Studio Basheva
  • Studio Bednarski
  • Studio DuB
  • Studio Seilern Architects
  • Syndicate West Architects
  • Tate Hindle
  • Theis and Khan Architects
  • Tim Greatrex Architects 
  • Triangle Architects
  • Turn Architects
  • Type3 Studio
  • Ullmayer Sylvester Architects
  • Una Kaya Architects
  • van Heyningen and Haward Architects
  • Whittaker Parsons
  • WilkinsonEyre
  • Witherford Watson Mann
  • Woodfield Brady Architects
  • Wren Architecture & Design
  • Zaha Hadid Architects


  • Clara Bagenal George, Elementa Consulting
  • Hero Bennett, Max Fordham
  • Chris Cummings, technical director, Chapmanbdsp
  • Emma Dent Coad, former MP for Kensington
  • Loyd Grossman,  chairman of The Royal Parks
  • Kelly Harrison, Heyne Tillett Steele
  • Joe Holyoak, architect and urban designer
  • J Jeffrey Keays, senior lecturer, school of architecture design & built environment, Nottingham Trent University
  • 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
  • Clare Richards, ft’work
  • Simon Sturgis, Targeting Zero
  • James Traynor, ECD Architects 
  • Professor Peter Walker, director of architecture and digital design, University of Salford

RetroFirst Logos 2019 3

RetroFirst Logos 2019 3  

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