Climate and Sustainable Design

Climate and Sustainable Design at Foster + Partners

Sustainability is a wide-ranging subject with many definitions. Addressing crucial concerns about climate change, we believe our projects must also encompass the health and wellbeing of our communities. This has been a central theme of our work for more than five decades. We work closely with our clients to develop bespoke design solutions that are optimised for their operations and the planet.

We have specialist in-house teams for carbon impact assessments, environmental analysis, materials research, landscape and workplace design, and environmental and structural engineering. Together with the design teams, they develop sustainable frameworks and identify environmental targets for a healthier world. We follow our projects through design and construction and can monitor the building performance while in-use.



The built environment is responsible for 40 per cent of global carbon emissions. Retrofitting existing buildings is crucial to meeting our net-zero carbon targets. By sympathetically adapting existing structures, we can enhance building performance and functionality, while reducing embodied carbon content. This includes transforming old office buildings into flexible workspaces, industrial districts into retail destinations, and extending the life of historic buildings.

There is a richness to those cities where buildings of different periods and styles have grown up alongside each other. Foster + Partners has always argued in favour of reuse and renewal of historical buildings, which can be given a new lease of life through sensitive interventions. Modern interventions in historic contexts often facilitate access, allowing more people to use and appreciate the old building in a way that would never have been possible previously. In this sense, they are the ultimate compliment recognising the value of a building, while simultaneously ensuring it is viable for future generations.

Over several decades, Foster + Partners has designed contemporary additions to significant historic structures. These have sensitively extended the buildings, broadening their potential uses, improving readability and the capacity to attract new users.

Carbon Impact

Led by our sustainability team, our aim is to meet the Paris Agreement targets. Even at their highest level, current worldwide sustainability assessment methods do not achieve the agreed maximum of +1.5 degree increase in global temperatures. We have therefore developed our own comprehensive assessment, which includes the evaluation of both embodied and operational carbon, to fully assess our designs for whole life carbon impact. This measures both the construction phase and the subsequent building in-use over sixty years. The results are then analysed using our Sustainability Barometer, which records assessments of all our current projects. This holistic approach is summarised in our Sustainability Manifesto.

Environmental Approach

Led by our environmental engineering team, we assess the environmental performance of our projects and develop innovative, future-proof solutions to mitigate the impact of climate change. Learning lessons from the Covid-19 pandemic, our focus is on resilience, flexibility, health and wellbeing. Our design approach addresses sustainability holistically, from efficient use of natural resources, circular economy strategies and biophilia to thermal comfort and indoor air quality. We seek to leverage the power of design to enhance the lived experience for all.


Applied R+D

Materials Research Centre

Urban Design and Landscape

Specialist Modelling Group


Environmental Engineering

Structural Engineering

Workplace Consultancy

Industrial Design