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Perkins&Will make world-first pledge to deliver zero-carbon office design

Architects Perkins&Will and Penoyre & Prasad have pledged to ensure the internal fit-outs of offices and commercial property will be net-zero carbon. 

19/11/2020 4 min read

Net-Zero Now, Perkins&Will’s net-zero interiors pledge and manifesto for change, sets out clear and achievable targets to ensure the interior fit-out of projects aligns with the firm’s architectural net-zero commitment to actively reduce the whole life carbon footprint of buildings. From November 2020, the combined London practice will offer, as standard, a net-zero embodied carbon or circular design strategy up to RIBA Stage 2.

The manifesto aims to address the gap between organisations’ corporate net-zero promises and the reality of their building stock. Many corporations and government bodies, led by the likes of Microsoft, have set targets over the next 10 years to reduce the built environment’s impact on the climate.

According to The Crown Estates’ Sustainability Fit Out Guide for Offices, interior fit-out is responsible for 40% of energy in a building, while research from Rype Office suggests 300 tonnes of fit-out goes to landfill every day. Furthermore, furniture from natural resources contributes to 30% of the carbon footprint of a commercial building over its entire life.

Shortening lease lengths in the sector indicate that flexibility in design and circular design principles are becoming more critical to waste reduction, and that the full life cycle carbon impact of our resources must be considered.

To hit the net-zero embodied carbon target, the firm will engage with clients, partners, supply chains and peers to ensure projects are designed using sustainable resources and re-used materials, which can be disassembled at the end of their lifespan in line with circular economy principles. Perkins&Will promises to drive and lead transparent change across the industry.

The pledge is broken down into three steps: in Q4 2020, the London studio of Perkins&Will, which includes Penoyre & Prasad, will launch a consultation process with key contractors, subcontractors, and supplier partners to ensure that their supply chains will meet the firm’s net-zero carbon targets.

By the end of 2021, half of its projects will be designed to be 100% circular – and by 2025, all projects will be designed to be 100% circular.

By 2030, all projects will be Net-Zero Embodied Carbon as demonstrated through a Whole Life Carbon Assessment.

The net-zero carbon interiors plan follows the firm’s architectural net-zero operational carbon pledge made at the end of 2019. Since January of this year, the London practice has delivered a Zero Operational Carbon Strategy Report for each new build or retrofit project within the RIBA Stage 2 of the design, at no additional cost to the client.

‘We welcome this report and the position that Perkins & Will are taking to advance net zero in the built environment,’ Judith Everett, Chief Operating Officer at The Crown Estate, enthuses. ‘Bringing a space to life for people to use draws on the expertise and skills of many different professions and organisations, requiring collaboration across the whole value chain. Making impactful progress will take all of us across this ecosystem working together to find innovative ways to eliminate waste and ensure that we make rapid advances in meeting net-zero ambitions; re-programming how we design, develop and operate space. It’s the leadership we want to deliver for our customers, people and wider society.’

‘Building on our 2019 net-zero architecture pledge, this net-zero carbon interiors pledge is the next stage in achieving our goal of delivering net-zero embodied carbon buildings,’ Adam Strudwick, Principal at Perkins&Will, says.

‘By focusing on the continuous use of resource, circular design principles and supply chain engagement our team will be pivoting to design projects in a new way that will enable us to reach this goal. It is critical that change happens now.’

‘Many of our clients have already committed to being carbon neutral or negative and, as such, we have a responsibility to help them on this journey,’ explains Steven Charlton, Principal and Managing Director at Perkins&Will. ‘Fit-out is responsible for nearly 40% of carbon in a building, and efforts must be made to reduce this. We believe that innovative design can play a fundamental role in significantly reducing this footprint by creating places that are truly energy efficient from cradle to grave.

‘As with all big aspirations, this is work in progress, but this is the next step towards changing our futures. This manifesto provides us with a clear plan to achieve our net-zero embodied carbon target for interiors. It incorporates key milestones, which we will use to track our progress along the way. We are committed to this pledge, and I hope that, as we engage more with our clients and industry partners, we can develop and increase the presence of net-zero carbon buildings across the country.’

‘The cycle of replacing fit-out with brand new materials every few years generates massive waste and carbon emissions,’ Sunand Prasad, Co-founder of Penoyre & Prasad, says. ‘New ways of designing and constructing interiors are urgently needed, but they also offer exciting innovation challenges. 

‘Rather than seeing energy, carbon and waste as compliance issues that increase costs and inhibit the imagination, we need to harness creativity and technology to bring zero carbon and the circular economy into the world of fit-out.’ω

Images and graphics courtesy of Perkins&Will

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