Following the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdowns in the UK, many office buildings were left deserted; relics of a time when we would enter an office without the need to social distance. The need to isolate from others saw huge swathes of the population working from home.

Not only did this change the home into a living and working space for so many, but empty office buildings became a symbol of the times. While many were able to adapt to home working, leaving these spaces to serve no purpose, a question arose; wouldn’t these spaces be more useful repurposed?

Outside of defunct office space, London is littered with structures which are no longer in use; boarded buildings and disused spaces which could be reimagined into places which suit new requirements.

Recycling and repurposing architecture has endless benefits; whilst maintaining or integrating the original structure, these spaces can be adapted to be more sustainable and useful.

Renovating or retrofitting can be considered for these structures.

Using a meticulous whole building approach can help to achieve extremely high standards of thermal performance and airtightness, adopting materials and detailing complementary to the building’s fabric and historic significance.

There are a range of things to consider; reducing moisture risks and using breathable impermeable materials such as wood fibre or lime-based render will allow walls to breathe. Efficient insulation is another core consideration of a low energy retrofit. Ventilation requires careful assessment and specialist support is recommended.

Whilst a detailed, thorough and high-quality retrofit project is likely to be expensive, the principles can be applied to other buildings at a more affordable scale.

Recommended reading for those seeking to retrofit a building can be found below:

Clapham Retrofit – RIBA –