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Making retrofit future proof

07 December 2023

The retrofit of an existing building involves the delicate balance of preserving the key features and historic value of the property, with improving overall performance and energy efficiency. 
Lawyers from DWF worked with HotelPropertyUK, to host a roundtable discussion with leaders from the real estate and hotel sector, to explore the challenges, opportunities and shared experience of retrofit projects.

John McRae from Orms Architects opened the retrofit roundtable discussion with an informed and engaging presentation about the retrofit of The Standard Hotel. This retrofit project transformed the unloved brutalist council office building into a luxury hotel and, in doing so, reinvigorated the south side of Euston Road.  John's insight and passion for this project, set the scene for an interactive discussion about the importance of retrofit, measuring embodied carbon and ensuring the building is fit for today and tomorrow.

Key discussion points

Remove, replace, repurpose

Retrofit projects call for a true understanding of the bones of the building; the building structure. For The Standard, this included looking through historic photographs, sourcing suppliers and manufacturers that had provided or worked on original features. It also involved re-imagining the building - using the existing space to maximise key features and 94% of the original structured was retained.

The project also involved adding 'the crown' - a further 3 floors at the very top of the building to create additional space for a roof terrace, bar and restaurant. It was important that these additional floors, were inkeeping with the original design, following the bays below and creating a vertical expressiong. However, it was equally important that the crown could also be removed and replaced in the future, as the property was further reimagined and repurposed.

Adaptable infrastructure

For any retrofit projects, the issue of embodied carbon is paramount. There is a tendency to focus on achieving the 'the lowest carbon profile' possible. Nevertheless, is this the right figure? The methods of calculating this figure has changed and will continue to change, so as professionals involved in retrofit projects, is it enough to be satisfied that we have done all that we can? There are other important factors to take in account, such as the life-long efficiency of the building, offsetting net zero and the wider positive impact that a retrofit project can have on the community and place making.

Using data to make better decisions

There is much data within the hotel and hospitality industry, about energy efficiency, but it is not currently centrally available. Capturing this could greatly assist in the design process for both retrofit projects as well as new developments. Better use of the data around embodied carbon and energy efficiency is also critical for investors that are driven by their ESG requirements and objectives. 

Alan Barnett, Corporate Real Estate Partner at DWF said," ESG plays an integral role in our business and we were delighted to bring together clients and contacts to discuss the importance of retrofit project, not only in delivering carbon reduction, but in bringing communities together with place making."

John McRae from Orms Architects," The retrofit of The Standard Hotel was first conceived almost a decade ago and at a time when building new the norm. It is now essential for investors, developers and architects to consider the whole design envelope of a building, not just for today, but for tomorrow."

"We've discussed some really important points and it has been great to hear how this retrofit project created a destination hotel." John Cowell, HotelPropertyUK.

For more information about future events, please register for regular updates.

To find out more about the points raised in this article please contact David McNeice or Alan Barnett.

Further Reading