Retrofit and Adaptive Re-use

There is a growing emphasis on retrofitting and adaptive re-use of existing structures to address the challenge of reducing embodied carbon in construction projects, which refers to the carbon emissions associated with the production of construction materials. Clients and professionals in the built environment sector are increasingly recognizing the importance of conducting comprehensive Whole Life Carbon analysis to assess carbon emissions holistically.

Leading organisations such as LETI (London Energy Transformation Initiative) have conducted case studies highlighting the significant impact that re-using existing structures can have on reducing emissions. These case studies can be found at

Avanti Architects has an extensive track record in tackling the retrofitting of historic structures. They possess specialized skills and strategies to address the challenges associated with buildings of various types and ages, including those constructed before and after 1900. Their expertise spans both listed and unlisted assets, encompassing different building types within the office, retail, culture, education, and health sectors.

Pre-1900 retrofit

Retrofitting pre-1900 historic structures presents unique challenges that require a deep understanding of the original construction techniques and the ability to adapt the existing fabric to improve thermal and environmental performance. This approach must consider specific risks related to moisture management and ventilation to ensure the preservation of traditional masonry and timber elements.

Avanti Architects has successfully executed large-scale transformations of pre-1900 buildings, such as The Ram Quarter in Wandsworth and St Clements Hospital redevelopment in Bow. These projects involved the revitalization and thermal upgrading of listed historic structures, resulting in new residential and mixed-use accommodations that meet the requirements of the 21st century in terms of thermal and environmental performance. Notable ongoing projects include Salisbury Court.

Retrofit of 20th Century buildings

Our team have an innate understanding of tackling ailing modern construction and enhancing the flexibility of buildings from this era to suit current and future needs. This has been honed through a series of key projects that demonstrate innovative responses to the typical challenges associated with 20th-century buildings.

Epworth House an ageing office building on the city fringes, underwent a comprehensive rebranding and renovation that included relocating the main entrance, optimizing vertical movement paths and light wells, and adding new basement and rooftop accommodations to increase value.

The Arup building, a robust concrete structure from the 1960s in Cambridge city centre, was stripped down to its core, allowing for a resilient retrofit strategy that caters to flexible and future-proofed workspace.

The House of Fraser department store in Birmingham is typical of city centre buildings in need of a new life.  The building is characterised by a deep departmental store plan. Avanti’s strategy creates multiple entrance points, with floor plates capable of being subdivided with good daylight to allow for mixed use development.

The Barbican is a renowned symbol of the post-war era and holds the distinction of being the largest listed entity in the UK. At its core lies an influential art centre characterized by a well-defined volume and extensive subterranean spaces. Avanti Architects, in collaboration with BIG and POor Collective, have presented visionary proposals that repurpose underutilized spaces surrounding the art centre, enhancing their functionality. These plans also include improvements to connectivity throughout the building and the reimagination of floor plates to optimize natural daylight, facilitating diverse workspace options and promoting cultural activities.

Haggerston School, constructed in the 1960s with a robust concrete frame, possesses all the characteristics of a deep retrofit project. Avanti Architects undertook a comprehensive transformation to enhance the energy performance and adaptability of the building, aligning it with the requirements of contemporary education and sustainability.

The Florey Building is an iconic building from the 1970s and grade II* listed. Avanti won an international design competition through a unique deep retrofit approach based on sound building economics. Arup’s bespoke environmental assessment method SPeAR and Soft Landings were employed to support the work.

Avanti have been working on the Ulster Hospital campus since 2005 transforming the estate with new and refurbished buildings. The Ulster Chemotherapy building for Mcmillan healthcare reinvigorates a tired looking building on the campus and increases floor space through an elegant two storey rooftop extension.

To provide further detail of our approach to retrofit and adaptive re-use of 19th and 20th century buildings we have published the following guides (see links below):


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