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Urban Splash and Canary Wharf Group boost RetroFirst campaign

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Developers Urban Splash and Canary Wharf Group are the latest organisations to back the AJ’s campaign to reuse existing buildings, along with the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and engineer Max Fordham

The RetroFirst campaign, which calls for government action in the areas of tax, policy and procurement to boost retrofit and refurbishment in order to slash carbon emissions, is continuing to garner support across the sector with more than 200 backers now on board.

Among the latest to sign up are architects Sheppard Robson, alma-nac and Moxon, and developers First Base, Spenbeck, and Crosstree – the client behind the impressive retrofit in King’s Cross which has created London’s new Standard Hotel.

Manchester-based Urban Splash has largely built its reputation on the innovative repurposing of industrial buildings in the north of England and has won dozens of design and architecture awards for its work including the regeneration of Park Hill in Sheffield (pictured).

Jonathan Falkingham, the developer’s founder and creative director, said it was ‘wholeheartedly aligned’ to the RetroFirst campaign.

‘It is all too easy to reach the “convenient” conclusion to demolish, but at Urban Splash we have spent 26 years putting reuse at the heart of what we do – restoring old mills, warehouses, factories, social housing and office buildings,’ he said. ’This may take a bit more time, creativity and effort but knocking down our heritage, in all its forms, is simply unsustainable.’

Major developer Canary Wharf Group owns around 8.5 million sq ft of office space, 1 million sq ft of retail, and boasts a £3.8 billion development pipeline.

Its design director Sanya Tomic said refurbishment was an ’environmentally beneficial, sustainable and efficient way to optimise the energy performance and extend the life of the existing buildings’.

She added: ‘With retrofit we aim to future proof our buildings and we also use refurbishment opportunity to refresh the workspace design, respond to the latest trends and requirements from our tenants.’

Meanwhile, the RICS called on the government to recognise that incentives such as reducing VAT on home repair, maintenance and improvement work would help it achieve its net zero targets.

The institution’s policy manager Patrice Cairns said: ‘When domestic buildings are responsible for around 20 per cent of the UK’s carbon emissions, there is an urgent need to address improving the energy efficiency within the UK’s building stock.

’Retrofitting provides an opportunity to achieve significant embodied carbon savings through reuse rather than rebuild.’

Further comments

Hero Bennett, partner and sustainability leader, Max Fordham ‘We’re very pleased to support the AJ’s RetroFirst campaign. We will never meet our carbon targets and protect the future of humanity if we continue to consume buildings in a linear fashion. There are great examples of energy-efficient and sensitive retrofits and these need to become the norm.

’Our own offices are a good example. Over the past 10 years, we’ve invested in comprehensive upgrades to reduce our energy demand and increase renewable energy generation. This was an essential step in us becoming the first building industry designers to become UKGBC Net Zero Carbon verified. We hope others in the industry will follow our lead and take action in refurbishing their own offices, as well as proposing retrofit for their projects.’

Alice Brown, AAB Architects ‘We have been inspired by the coverage since the AJ took up this cause about a year ago. On a personal level, your black covered ‘Wake Up’ edition prompted me to get much more involved at a local level, and help set up Climate Emergency Camden, which has been lobbying around issues of embodied carbon.’


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)
  • Bath School of Design, Bath Spa University
  • British Land
  • Canary Wharf Group
  • Capital + Centric
  • Chapmanbdsp
  • Crosstree
  • Cundall
  • Edinburgh World Heritage
  • First Base
  • FORE
  • Hearth Historic Buildings Trust
  • Historic Environment Scotland
  • Hoare Lea
  • London Waste & Recycling Board (LWARB)
  • Max Fordham
  • Paradigm Land
  • Price & Myers
  • RIBA
  • RICS
  • SAVE Britain’s Heritage
  • Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB)
  • Spenbeck
  • Town & Country Planning Association (TCPA)
  • Trilogy Real Estate
  • The Twentieth Century Society
  • The Victorian Society
  • U+I
  • UK Green Building Council
  • Urban Splash
  • WSP

Architect practices

  • 3D Reid
  • 5th Studio
  • 50.8 Architecture & Interiors
  • AAB Architects
  • aad architects
  • ADP Architecture
  • Alison Brooks Architects
  • alma-nac
  • Amos Goldreich Architecture
  • Andris Berzins + Associates
  • Allford Hall Monaghan Morris (AHMM)
  • Allies and Morrison
  • Architectural Emporium
  • Architectural Thread
  • Architecture Initiative
  • Architype
  • Aros Architects
  • 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
  • Circle Architecture
  • 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
  • Devlin 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
  • Gray Macpherson Architects
  • Grimshaw
  • Group Ginger
  • Halliday Clark Architects
  • Hawkins\Brown
  • Haworth Tompkins
  • Heatherwick Studio
  • Henley Halebrown
  • Heritage Architecture
  • Hills & Co
  • Hopkins
  • HPA Architecture
  • HÛT
  • Hutchinson & Partners
  • Ian Ritchie Architects
  • Jestico + Whiles
  • John Gilbert Architects
  • John Robertson Architects
  • Jonathan Tuckey Design
  • JTP
  • Kendall Kingscott
  • Knott Architects
  • KR.eativ: Architects 
  • LTS Architects
  • LYN Atelier
  • MAP Architecture
  • MawsonKerr Architects
  • MAX Architects
  • McMullan Studio
  • Mike Daubney Architects
  • Mikhail Riches
  • Morrow + Lorraine Architects
  • Moxon Architects
  • Morse Webb Architects
  • MTBA Associates, Ottawa, Canada
  • Murphy Associates
  • Neu Architects
  • New Practice
  • Nicola de Quincey architecture + conservation
  • Norman-Prahm Architects
  • 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
  • Ruth Butler Architects
  • Sarah Wigglesworth Architects
  • Scott Brownrigg
  • Selencky Parsons
  • ShedKM
  • Sheppard Robson Architects 
  • Simone de Gale Architects
  • Simpson & Brown
  • Sow Space
  • Square One Architects
  • Stephen Taylor Architects
  • Steve Ritchie Partnership
  • Stiff + Trevillion Architects 
  • Studio Basheva
  • Studio Bednarski
  • Studio Ben Allen
  • Studio DuB
  • Studio Polpo
  • Studio Seilern Architects
  • Studio Van Hoorebeek
  • Syndicate West Architects
  • Tate Hindle
  • Theis and Khan Architects
  • Tim Greatrex Architects 
  • Tonic Architecture
  • 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
  • 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
  • Professor Peter Walker, director of architecture and digital design, University of Salford

RetroFirst Logos 2019 3

RetroFirst Logos 2019 3  

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Have the Canary Wharf Group ever retrofitted something that is over 20 years old? They are responsible for some shocking new build projects.

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