WSP, the engineering and professional services consultancy, has surveyed over 100 industry professionals on the benefits of retrofitting existing building stock across the UK, taking into consideration decarbonisation, smart technology and placemaking.

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Achieving Net Zero

With 80% of the buildings required in 30 years’ time having already been built and almost half of the UK’s carbon footprint coming from the built environment, retrofitting existing stock through new technologies, improving energy efficiency and more effective building management systems should be a major priority.

The survey of over 100 industry experts including leading architects, property developers and public and private sector building administrators, showed that over half (51%) consider ‘energy efficiency and decarbonisation’ as the most important outcomes for retrofit projects, with only ‘safety and security’ ranking higher.

Nick Offer, Head of UK Building Services at WSP, says: “If we want to achieve a more responsible, climate-friendly society, demolishing properties and replacing them with more sustainable ones doesn’t add up. It’s not cost-effective and doesn’t fit with our aspirations to nurture a circular economy that minimises the impact of building materials and construction processes on the environment.”

To be successful in retrofit projects, 51% of respondents think that more innovation in renewable power generation and storage is needed, with 48% agreeing that solar power will provide the biggest performance gain on retrofit projects over the next two years.

Offer continued: “We seal our buildings up instead of letting them breathe, then design systems to cool spaces down. We live in a temperate climate with an outside temperature of 17‒18 °C for much of the year. Applying an element of mixed-mode ventilation would be more suitable. We need to think differently about how we’re using energy.”

Technology and Wellbeing

Over two-thirds (67%) of property professionals believe retrofit projects significantly improve occupants’ wellbeing with more than a third of respondents (36%) say a personalised or interactive environment – for example lighting and temperature controls – is important in a retrofit.

Additionally, over half (58%) of those surveyed for WSP’s ‘Rethink Retrofit’ research agree that using more natural materials in a building refurbishment will become more popular in the future owing to a measurable impact on wellbeing.

Anna Woodeson, Director of LTS Architects, said: “In the future, we will eradicate the toxic materials of the past and introduce more natural, regenerative materials. It is almost like looking at the biology of a building. When we add new materials into old buildings, we come to understand that many existing buildings have a kind of breathable façade and this gives us a better appreciation of natural building products.”

The survey asked which technologies will contribute the most to enhancing the performance of buildings over the next two years, with nearly half (58%) of respondents saying solar-powered systems, followed by the Internet-of-Things (44%) and Smart Devices (41%).

Matthew Marson, Head of Smart Places at WSP, said: “We’re just beginning to experience the true impact of advanced technologies in the built environment. These technologies show promising signs of being an active enabler for retrofit – allowing existing buildings to perform as well or better than a new build.”

Social Fabric

The research from WSP shows that nearly half (49%) of professionals believe retrofitting buildings can strengthen the social fabric and commercial viability of a neighbourhood with (53%) strongly or moderately agree that retrofit creates inclusive cities that are better for the environment and communities.

46% of those surveyed for surveyed for WSP’s ‘Rethink Retrofit’ research believe the buildings we have currently are under-utilised and can be better used for other purposes such as community events after peak-hour use.

As well as making social and environmental sense, the retrofit or refurbishment of heritage buildings is more than economically viable, with typically every £1 spent on heritage-led regeneration, giving a return of £1.60.

Richard Upton, Chief Development Officer at U+I, said: “An understanding needs to develop that being local and authentic creates a much better society and much greater social and financial value. Yes, it takes more effort, but we need to create social cohesion: thoughtful, interesting places that are less susceptible to crime, and create a much greater sense of community and belonging.”

An ambitious national retrofit campaign is required to reduce building emissions. It is one of many actions which needs to be taken to achieve the UK’s Net Zero 2050 target, including the decarbonisation of transport and industry, utilisation of hydrogen and carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology and reforestation.


For further information, please contact:

Katie Brown, Senior PR Executive

020 3057 2228 / 07899776923 


About ‘Rethink Retrofit’

Retrofitting refers to the addition of new technology or features to older systems, while also including the refurbishment and transformation of the existing built environment.

A high-quality retrofit project can include the installation of more renewable energy systems, better and greater insulation, and internet connected devices within the project.

The insights in this report are based on a survey of 103 UK architects, property developers, and public and private-sector building administrators, completed between September and October 2019. The survey was carried out by Longitude on behalf of WSP.




About WSP

WSP is one of the world's leading engineering professional services consulting firms. We are dedicated to our local communities and propelled by international brainpower. We are technical experts and strategic advisors including engineers, technicians, scientists, planners, surveyors and environmental specialists, as well as other design, program and construction management professionals. We design lasting solutions in the Property & Buildings, Transportation & Infrastructure, Environment, Industry, Resources (including Mining and Oil & Gas) and Power & Energy sectors as well as project delivery and strategic consulting services.

With more than 8,200 talented people in the UK and approximately 49,500 globally, we engineer projects that will help societies grow for lifetimes to come. WSP has been involved in many high-profile UK projects including the re-development of London Bridge Station and Quarter, Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, HS2, Transport for the North Strategic Development Corridor studies, One Blackfriars and the Shard.


About U+I

U+I is a specialist regeneration developer and investor.


With a >£11.5 billion portfolio of complex, mixed-use, community-focused regeneration projects including a £147.1 million investment portfolio, we are unlocking urban sites bristling with potential in the London City Region (within one hour’s commute from Central London), Manchester and Dublin. We exist to create long-term socio-economic benefit for the communities in which we work, delivering sustainable returns to our shareholders.

To find out more, visit or follow us @uandiplc. 


About LTS Architects

LTS are committed to design excellence, sustainable outcomes and the highest quality of service; these aims are underpinned by a simple desire to make a better built environment and, through this, positively contribute to people’s lives.

In recent years, LTS have created a diverse body of work and have been widely published. They see design as a continual process of exploration that requires both imagination and tenacity. It is only through constantly challenging ideas and solutions that the very best outcomes are achieved.