GSSArchitecture’s internal Sustainability Working Group has recently been working on several exciting developments, utilising ongoing research and a commitment to the latest sustainable construction practices in the industry. In 2019, the UK became the fi rst major economy in the world to pass laws to end its contribution to global warming by 2050, requiring all greenhouse gas emissions to be reduced to net zero by this date. T e built environment contributes around 40% of the UK’s total carbon footprint, making this a key area of focus for the team nationally, in order to achieve this net zero goal. Across all five offices, GSS set up their

Sustainability Working Group in order to inform their design decisions. Architects play a key role in delivering net zero design, with the whole life cycle of a building and its components requiring careful consideration to ensure both operational and embodied emissions are reduced. Whilst new-build developments can adopt

sustainable design solutions from the outset, thus producing more energy-efficient buildings, the UK Green Building Council estimates that 80% of buildings that will exist in 2050 have already been built. It is, therefore, important for an emphasis to be placed on improving the energy effi ciency of the existing stock, and properly utilising spaces that already exist.

Old buildings can use large amounts of energy and provide less than ideal living and working

The role of refurbishments in sustainable design

Chris Chapman Partner & Milton Keynes Studio Lead GSSArchitecture

conditions for their occupants. T ey may be diffi cult to heat, have poor lighting, poor ventilation, solar gain and glare and poor control of heating and cooling. It is, therefore, important to take a well-considered approach to the design of a refurbishment project, ensuring the correct materials, waste solutions and energy effi cient solutions are properly utilised. It is also important to consider the role of embodied carbon in making a building environmentally sustainable. Embodied carbon is the amount of carbon released during the production and processing of materials, so whilst newer buildings can utilise more sustainable methods, the impact of the new materials produced will have a significant effect. Retaining existing structures and materials is, therefore, an excellent method for reducing the level of embodied carbon in a construction project. T e recent work carried out by GSS on the redevelopment of a

commercial property in central Milton Keynes has presented an ideal opportunity to adopt many of these sustainable construction methods. T e project involves the refurbishment and extension of a three-storey offi ce building, with importance placed on the BREEAM and Fitwel Standard certifi cations being achieved. The BREEAM Refurbishment and Fit Out standard enables

developers and building owners to assess sustainability-related impacts during design works, recognising the performance of the building once improvements have been made. GSS have received an Outstanding BREEAM rating for a recently completed project, which has also received the Constructing Excellence Sustainability award at both the Constructing Excellence North East and National awards in 2020. T e same team are also currently delivering designs for a new national Net Zero Carbon Research and Model Building. Approximately 40% of construction output is refurbishment and

maintenance, and there is an ever-growing number of commercial to residential schemes, retaining and reusing existing buildings in central urban locations. With extensive experience in the design and delivery of award-winning sustainable developments, and a commitment to the research and application of the latest sustainable construction methods, GSSArchitecture are well positioned to assist developers and building owners with these important projects, bringing the industry closer to achieving the net zero carbon goals.

Find out about how GSSArchitecture can help you with your projects, and more of their experience with new builds, refurbishments and redevelopment projects in a wide range of sectors, by visiting


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