Repurposing is key to unlocking the future of our city centres

Nick Fairham, chief executive of BDP, 2021

In the latest in our Stratford Design Challenge series, BDP’s Nick Fairham considers the role retrofit and reuse can play

It’s no secret that city centres are facing significant challenges as we emerge from the pandemic. High street vacancy rates have shot up since the collapse of major retailers and working practices have changed irreversibly. Meanwhile, people, businesses and public-sector organisations are also slowly waking up to the fact that there is a much bigger picture at stake.

A report by Historic England last year said the built environment, including the construction industry, accounts for 42% of the UK’s carbon footprint. It’s a shocking statistic and as architects, engineers, designers and urbanists we have a responsibility to find inventive solutions to address this.

The quantum and diversity of space becoming available in our town and city centres offers a real opportunity to collectively and creatively reinvent what it means to live in urban centres. However, to achieve a truly integrated approach to repurposing and retrofitting, and to maximise reuse across public- and private-sector assets, partnership working must be at the heart of this approach.

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