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.
Historic buildings can be enhanced by sensitive new additions that respond uniquely to the place, engaging with the demands of the setting, the environmental considerations, and the spirit of the existing structure.
Working on complex urban sites, the challenge is often to design interventions that can both acknowledge their context while standing discreetly on their own terms.
The adaptive re-use of existing structures and giving them a new function is possibly the most direct and simplest sustainable approach to construction – extending the life of a building many years into the future.