This article is by Ben Taylor
Ben is a director at LOM, specialising in commercial and residential architecture and with a particular interest in how to balance material and structural innovation with sustainability and commercial viability.
How can we embrace the challenges of retrofit and re-use to unlock the best possible solutions for occupiers?
There are four main goals that the businesses and clients we work with typically want to achieve: 1) being effective and delivering on what they do, 2) managing costs and maximising value in every sense, 3) motivating and supporting their people, and 4) decarbonising. Realising these is a serious challenge. They are not easy. We know how to help.
Our experience at LOM with retrofit and re-purposing buildings is already substantial and still growing. We’ve got a comprehensive portfolio of successful projects and we continue to evolve methodologies to help us get the best results on any new brief. Underpinning all the work we do are three core considerations: cost, carbon and creativity.
“Engagement is essential to assess options and best guide and inform the client as to what will be most effective across embodied and operational carbon.”
As we close out 2022 and head into the new year, it seems pretty obvious that cost and carbon will be determining factors for real estate decisions in 2023. Cost because, more than ever, achieving return on investment is going to be scrutinised within a tightening economic landscape. Carbon because of internal and external pressures on every organisation to walk the walk on ESG and to demonstrate action on decarbonising and climate change.
When things are complicated, the culture at LOM is to simplify the issues in order to arrive at the best assessment of options, risks and opportunities. This is where we apply our creativity.
So the lens we look through when we assess any potential re-use or retrofit project is to ask ourselves: how can we best add value? How can we enable better design efficiency and, also, reduce carbon? Are there any new uses we can introduce by bringing through creativity and re-imagining workspace? For example, aspects that will ultimately enhance building performance and occupier satisfaction?
On value, this can typically involve assessing the interventions which will best improve the quality and efficiency of the existing space and therefore the user experience. We’re talking about creative ideas to make spaces work harder in terms of optimising floor area while considering the interventions to best enhance user experience and satisfaction.
On cutting carbon, it’s the big decisions early in a project which make the most impact, so getting these right is key. Engagement is essential to assess options and best guide and inform the client as to what will be most effective across embodied and operational carbon. We consider how the existing fabric or building services can be enhanced, what new passive design strategies might be introduced to improve a building’s performance, and we assess what role natural ventilation, shading, and renewables can play. It’s important for us to give the client good data and to deliberate with them on which choice will ultimately best respond to their objectives and their brief.
“When things are complicated, the culture at LOM is to simplify the issues in order to arrive at the best assessment of options, risks and opportunities. This is where we apply our creativity.”
On considering new spaces and new uses, we’re always looking to bring the best fresh thinking and apply our experience in contemporary workplace – with its emphasis on ‘experience’ – into creative re-use solutions. No idea is off the table at the early stage. How can a space be flipped to make a more inspiring arrival? How can circulation be improved to enhance connections and links? Or, how can natural light be introduced to transform a previously dark, under-utilised space? We’re always looking for areas where there’s potential to do things better and, by so doing, to unlock fresh as well as functional space.
Of course, every building is different and has its own unique set of challenges as well as potential. At LOM, we thrive on tackling these challenges to arrive at the most the effective solution for the client and the building’s users – unlocking this potential by getting the big decisions right.
I’m hugely motivated by opportunities for the creative re-use of office space and look forward to a range of exciting new possibilities in 2023.
If anything I’ve touched on here resonates with you, I’d welcome the opportunity to discuss it further.
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