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Retrofitting cultural buildings, DSDHA

While new-build technologies are addressing the embodied and operational carbon of buildings to meet the Paris Agreement target to be zero carbon by 2050, there are few resources to support the adaptation of the estimated 80% of building stock that will be occupied by then, and that have already been built.

With strong experience in the retrofit of cultural spaces and buildings, DSDHA have undertaken the substantial environmental upgrade of the Grade II* listed Smithson Plaza, as well as the remodelling of the National Youth Theatre. They have already identified many constraints and opportunities from which similar future projects would benefit.  

DSDHA is building on this experience through a reflective critique of best practice case studies which have been employed for adapting cultural buildings to minimise their ongoing carbon consumption.

DSDHA would collate and communicate a suite of possible strategies which can be applied to forthcoming projects across the UK, for a range of cultural building typologies. This will provide insight into the process by which these design approaches might be applied, and how architectural processes need to evolve to capitalise on these opportunities. The outcomes of this research will also help build confidence in the strategies available, and provide evidence of the benefits of investment, to help catalyse the adoption of adaptive reuse by clients, designers and stakeholders. 


DSDHA is an architectural practice working across a range of scales – from infrastructure to housing – with strong experience in the retrofit of cultural spaces and buildings. Having undertaken the

Read: Cultural Policy Fellowship report

This report helps articulate the three values of retrofit - environmental, cultural and social - operating within the parameters of economic considerations, which should be considered for the future-proofing of our cultural infrastructure. It aims to bring greater clarity to the retrofit process for cultural organisations as well as recommendations for policy-makers and researchers.
Author: DSDHA