Hi Elizabeth, what’s your role at Cartwright Pickard and what sectors do you specialise in?
I’m a Project Director at Cartwright Pickard specialising in heritage and retrofit projects. I have a particular interest in turn of the 20th century buildings.
Why do you think retrofitting heritage buildings is important to the architecture industry?
I think that heritage projects have always been important to the industry as they provide a connection with our collective social, townscape and architectural past. They are important placemaking buildings, with inherent character within the context they inhabit.
I champion the current drive to retrofit these buildings in order to address our climate and carbon targets. Working with existing buildings provides the opportunity to make a difference in our need for a more sustainable construction industry, with the added benefit of creating a connection to our past and allowing us to build on a past legacy of development in every sense of the meaning.
What are the main challenges facing wider adoption of retrofit projects?
As an industry, we have approached most development projects with our ‘demolish and rebuild’ hats on. I believe we need to consider every angle when challenged with a new project, including tackling what may be a complex set of existing buildings, in order to protect the value in our historic built environment whilst retrofitting it for a modern purpose - and beyond.
We also need to upskill the sector. That includes clients, architects, consultants and contractors alike, all the way through the supply chain. A better understanding of how to approach existing buildings, and particularly heritage buildings, will be a challenge the sector will need to address.
There are more nuances and unknowns with existing buildings, and generally there isn’t a ‘one solution fits all’ approach. They require a practical, collaborative, and innovative approach to come up with the right strategies each time.
How can we approach these challenges in an innovative way?
I think we need to start with looking at the way in which we often design and construct buildings and move towards a more collaborative approach where ideas are discussed, tested, and proved before moving into the construction phase. This will allow the best solutions for retrofitting, making the biggest carbon impacts possible.
Increasing the knowledge sharing opportunities across the sector through training, CPD, and other ways to educate and advise the industry will also be needed. We will need to adopt and test new carbon neutral technologies as they become available, and we will need to educate the building occupiers as to how to understand and use their buildings to have the best possible chance of optimising the benefits.
What does the future look like for retrofit projects?
I think it is a very exciting prospect. One where modern and historic and the in-betweens can jostle in the new context of designing, for the collective purpose of addressing climate change.
And finally, is there a project or moment in your career at CP that has been particularly rewarding?
I have had the privilege of working on quite a number of rewarding projects over the 15 years I have been with CP.
I guess one of my particular favourite moments would have to be the opening of Lambeth Town Hall, a Grade II Listed Building, following a deep retrofit. We reinvigorated a tired and run-down public building and restored it to its rightful place as the heart of the civic community for Lambeth Council.
We improved the thermal performance of the fabric, provided new services, increased the useable area within the existing footprint, added public use facilities, a landscaped courtyard, and added on site renewables to create a highly sustainable and desirable building for the people of Lambeth.
Lambeth Town Hall