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Retrofit work offers new architectural possibilities, say latest RetroFirst backers

Retrofirst demands all
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WilkinsonEyre, Hopkins, Hawkins\Brown, Glenn Howells Architects, Gensler and JTP are the latest signatories to the AJ RetroFirst campaign

As the list of backers in the profession continued to swell, the firms were joined by a trio of practices specialising in heritage work: Purcell, Donald Insall Associates and Edinburgh-based Simpson & Brown (see list of supporters below).

RetroFirst, which was launched at the AJ’s annual Retrofit Awards in September, calls for government action to encourage greater use of retrofit and refurbishment in three key areas: tax, procurement and policy.

Retrofitting buildings usually results in significantly lower upfront emissions than demolition and rebuild because of the embodied carbon in existing structures.

However, the latest backers – which have joined other supporters including Foster + Partners, Alison Brooks Architects and Haworth Tompkins – have also made the point that refurbishment is a creative opportunity for architects.

Chris Wilkinson, co-founder of double Stirling Prize winner WilkinsonEyre, which is currently repurposing Giles Gilbert Scott’s Battersea Power Station, said: ‘WikinsonEyre have always supported the imaginative repurposing of buildings for new uses … Retrofit offers great opportunities for intelligent architectural thought and – given the sustainability imperative – merits a place at the centre of professional discourse.’

Hopkins principal Mike Taylor agreed that ‘creative reuse does not represent a compromise to the architectural outcome’, citing its projects including Norwich Cathedral and the Harvard Campus Centre.

He added: ‘We fully endorse the AJ RetroFirst campaign. As a profession, we should all be encouraging the reuse of buildings and we demand our policymakers follow suit.’

And Roger Hawkins, co-founder of Hawkins\Brown which has designed large-scale retrofit schemes including the Bartlett School of Architecture, Here East and the regeneration of Sheffield’s Park Hill estate, lauded the ‘creative possibilities’ of refurbishment work.

‘It is clear that making better use of the buildings we already have is the best way to reduce our industry’s use of resources,’ Hawkins said. ‘By collectively campaigning on core national issues like tax, policy and procurement our profession can make a positive contribution and create better conditions to convince clients and the community of the benefit, viability and creative possibilities of retrofit.’

Glenn Howells, who said his practice was ‘committed to encouraging the upgrade of existing buildings as an alternative to demolition’ pointed out that government action, particularly concerning tax reform, was sorely needed to incentivise refurbishment.

‘There can be cost implications and planning issues around retrofitting measures (such as external installation),’ he said, ‘and therefore introducing zero VAT on refurbishment, as is the case for new builds, would help to encourage more clients and individuals to go down this route.

‘It is not only fairer but could also be one of the most efficient ways to tackle the climate change crisis in the UK, where existing building stock constitutes the great majority of buildings and will continue to do so for many decades to come.’

Further Comments:

Alasdair Travers, design partner, Purcell
‘We have always believed in the depth of cultural and environmental value in our historic built environment. Continuing the life of the buildings we have around us, whether twenty or two hundred years old, is just good sense. Many of our best-loved historic buildings have changed use many times, and we need to make sure that we build this long-term adaptability into our new buildings in the same way that allows us to work with the buildings from previous generations.


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
  • London Waste & Recycling Board (LWARB)
  • Town & Country Planning Association (TCPA)
  • Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB)
  • UK Green Building Council


  • 3D Reid
  • ADP Architecture
  • Alison Brooks Architects
  • Amos Goldreich Architecture
  • Andris Berzins + Associates
  • Allford Hall Monaghan Morris (AHMM)
  • Allies and Morrison
  • Architectural Emporium
  • Architecture Initiative
  • Architype
  • Belsize Architects
  • Ben Adams Architects
  • Bennetts Associates
  • Boano Prišmontas
  • Brimelow McSweeney Architects
  • Bryden Wood
  • BuckleyGrayYeoman
  • Caruso St John Architects
  • Child Graddon Lewis
  • Chris Dyson Architects
  • Clare Nash Architecture
  • Connolly Wellingham Architects
  • Cousins and Cousins
  • Curl La Tourelle Head Architecture
  • David Chipperfield Architects
  • DLG Architects
  • DNA Architecture
  • Donald Insall Associates
  • Dress for the Weather
  • ECD Architects
  • ECE Architecture
  • e-gg
  • EPR Architects
  • Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios
  • Feix&Merlin
  • Foster + Partners
  • Gardner Stewart Architects
  • Gensler
  • Glenn Howells Architects
  • Gort Scott
  • Grimshaw
  • Heatherwick Studio
  • Henley Halebrown
  • Hawkins\Brown
  • Haworth Tompkins
  • Hills & Co
  • Hopkins
  • HÛT
  • Hutchinson & Partners
  • Ian Ritchie Architects
  • Jestico + Whiles
  • JTP
  • Kendall Kingscott
  • Knott Architects
  • LTS Architects
  • LYN Atelier
  • MAP Architecture
  • MawsonKerr Architects
  • MAX Architects
  • McMullan Studio
  • Morrow + Lorraine Architects
  • Morse Webb Architects
  • MTBA Associates, Ottawa, Canada
  • Neu Architects
  • O’Donnell + Tuomey
  • Owen Ellis Architects
  • Page\Park Architects
  • Paul Testa Architecture
  • Penoyre & Prasad
  • Piercy & Company Architects
  • Procter-Rihl
  • Purcell
  • Robert Dye Architects
  • Robert Rhodes Architecture + Interiors
  • Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners
  • Sarah Wigglesworth Architects
  • Scott Brownrigg
  • Sow Space
  • Stephen Taylor Architects
  • Steve Ritchie Partnership
  • Simone de Gale Architects
  • Simpson & Brown
  • Square One Architects
  • Studio Basheva
  • Studio Bednarski
  • Studio Seilern Architects
  • Syndicate West Architects
  • Theis and Khan Architects
  • Tim Greatrex Architects 
  • Turn Architects
  • Type3 Studio
  • Ullmayer Sylvester Architects
  • Una Kaya Architects
  • Whittaker Parsons
  • WilkinsonEyre
  • Witherford Watson Mann
  • Woodfield Brady Architects
  • Wren Architecture & Design
  • Zaha Hadid Architects


  • Clara Bagenal George, Elementa Consulting
  • Duncan Baker-Brown, BBM Sustainable Design
  • Hero Bennett, Max Fordham
  • Chris Cummings, technical director, Chapmanbdsp
  • Emma Dent Coad, MP for Kensington
  • 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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