We are a re-use practice

Written By

Eilidh Henderson, Jamie Hamilton

2.12.2021 Thinking

The plea from COP 26 was to use the planet’s resources sparingly.

For us, this means we should re-use, re-cycle and re-generate what we already have.

In our 40 years of practice, we’ve worked on 1533 projects, of which around 80% have involved existing structures. That’s 1226 existing buildings, places and settings that have been reinvigorated for current and future communities.

Today, as we celebrate our 40th anniversary and look forward, this ethos will continue to define our culture and approach to design. We are a collaborative creative community. A collective of individuals, of idea makers, united by a commitment to the re-use of places, buildings, spaces and materials.

Crucially we believe we are not set apart from our culture and communities, but an integral part of the context in which we work. We are a tool and resource for our communities, helping them find new ways forward to serve our shared needs, to creatively reuse what we have to address the challenges and opportunities of the next forty years, and beyond.

We are pleased to acknowledge here recognition of our approach.

The RIAS Zero Waste Scotland Circular Economy Award 2021 was awarded to our recently completed Edinburgh Printmakers project and is testament to our re-use approach. The RIAS commented:

“The building demonstrates circularity principles in its retention of assets and materials and how it has made things last, whilst delivering a modern building with a lower whole life carbon footprint than the new build alternative.”

Our recently completed Leeds Playhouse project also won the RIBA Yorkshire 2021 Award as well as the RIBA Yorkshire Sustainability Award 2021. This was a fantastic achievement for the project team with the judges commenting: “It is commendable that the design intent and sustainability strategy has been maintained, despite working with a tight budget on an existing public building, this makes it a worthy winner of the Sustainability Award.”

As we celebrate 40 years of re-use in our built environment, we recommit to playing our part in reaching net zero carbon. Without exception, we look first at what exists and ask how we can re-use and re-invent to meet future needs. This approach continues to be at the heart of all that we do and underpins our carbon zero action plan.

This action plan focusses on three scales of impact:

1. Micro: Our practice – How we organise our own habits, striving to lead by example.

2. Meso: Our projects – How we advise our clients and collaborate with design teams and contractors, to reduce embodied and operational carbon.

3. Macro: External actions – How we contribute to wider research, understanding and education of sustainability.

The climate emergency presents humanity with an unprecedented challenge – we need to respond collectively and with urgency. We believe the best way to do this is to support the work of UK Architects Declare and Biodiversity Emergency and align ourselves with the RIBA 2030 Climate Challenge, and the Architect’s Journal RetroFirst campaign. A key aspect to these is the call for fairer VAT legislation by reducing the current 20% VAT on repair and refurbishment works and aligning it with the 0% to 5% rate on demolition and new-build. As a practice committed to the preservation and upgrading of existing buildings we feel strongly that this financial penalty on re-use should be removed.

We are actively investing in our expertise through research and learning – To enable us to act appropriately and creatively to reach net zero carbon in our practice, projects and through our external actions.



We would like to take this opportunity in celebrating our 40th anniversary, to thank all of our fantastic clients, consultants, collaborators & colleagues who have played a significant part in the history and future of our practice. We hope many of you will join us on the journey for the next 40 years!

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