Celebrating excellence in retrofit and the reuse in the built environment
The AJ Retrofit Awards, brought to you by The Architects’ Journal, recognise and celebrate the design expertise behind the vital renewal and repurposing of existing buildings, setting a precedent for ways to slash the industry’s carbon footprint in the process.
With a huge spend on upgrading housing, commercial and industrial buildings, retrofits play a major role in the future of UK construction. The Retrofit Awards cover nine categories, including healthcare, housing, higher education and listed buildings.
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In an age when we are facing potentially catastrophic climate breakdown and all that entails, the AJ Retrofit Awards highlight the importance of adapting and re-imaging our built environment through the careful use of existing resources. The awards promote the highest standards of architecture and design and set the benchmark in the conservation of all that is important in our historic built environment.
The AJ Retrofit Awards are quite unique – not only do they reward first class design, successful project delivery and client/user satisfaction, they also celebrate how the best architectural interventions can completely transform a building and how its users experience it. We all know that working with existing buildings is a challenge but it is something that as an industry we need to get much better at, and fast. The more we can re-use, recycle, upgrade, transform and inspire through great architecture, the better for everyone. That is what the AJ Retrofit Awards are all about.
The inventive, affordable and sustainable retrofit of existing buildings is without doubt one of the most important avenues of low carbon design. As an industry we should be working with our clients to show the opportunities within existing buildings and how they can be re-invigorated to become fantastic, healthy, low energy environments that suit modern ways of living and working. Doing this effectively will significantly reduce the amount of embodied carbon over a building’s lifetime compared to a similar new build - a key target for tackling climate change. Outstanding retrofit takes skill and commitment by all involved. The AJ awards highlight some of the best examples of this work and should be a prize that every architect aims for.
We are a small practice - in RIBA’s classification we rank as ‘micro practice’ with only five people. We do most things in-house. Entering awards is always time-consuming but, I have come to believe, necessary for the practice’s survival. It pulls together, in a short space of time, skills of each and every one of us in the way that developing and delivering projects seldom does. It forces us to communicate ideas clearly and concisely to each other and learn to see the wood for the trees. Ultimately that makes us a more successful practice. But possibly more importantly for a micro practice, it takes us into the larger community of fellow professionals and makes us feel connected and a part of. And finally, whilst winning is not all, obtaining the winner’s status shows off quality of the work to wider audiences and definitely paves the way to more successes.
The AJ Retrofit Awards has quickly become an exemplary champion of intelligently crafted reuse in architecture. It fosters an important discussion of design quality and sustainability at a time when we now more than ever are recognising the critical need to make the most of the buildings we already have, not just those yet to be built.
Retro-fit; repurposing a redundant shell, reigniting a tired interior, or simply extending a house. In prolonging the useful life of our existing building stock, this award rewards the toil of those railing against the throw-away culture - to recycle, it is a celebration of the genuinely sustainable.
Recognising excellence in retrofit is a very important thing to do as we face up to the climate crisis. We need to reduce carbon emissions now; to retrofit a building rather than demolishing and replacing saves all the embodied carbon while reducing the in-use emissions of the existing building. It's so important to celebrate this kind of architecture in the same way as we celebrate new buildings.
I really enjoyed judging at this year’s AJ Retrofit Awards. The awards are a wonderful way for projects and their teams to be recognised for the hard work, skill and ingenuity in reworking existing buildings for all sorts of uses. The awards ceremony is a further great way to celebrate and join other leading names in the industry for a night to gather and reflect on the achievements of those shortlisted.