Editor: In the context of COP26 and the heightened urgency for decarbonisation strategies, retrofitting existing buildings for new purposes is a positive measure to ensure the sustainability of the housing sector. Crucially, retrofitting also helps to address the chronic housing crisis in this country.

Following reports that Britain’s built environment currently accounts for 40% of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, the environmental impact of demolishing and rebuilding existing structures is too damaging to ignore.

Decarbonising existing building stock is a key approach to combat climate change and retrofitting or converting buildings at risk of demolition can reduce emissions considerably.

Converting unused buildings into residential space is also a vital step in solving the housing crisis. As the UK’s endemic shortage of affordable housing has resulted in as many as six million people being at risk of homelessness in the UK, estimates suggest that up to 450,000 new homes could be provided through conversion projects – a considerable increase in much-needed housing supply.

With missed building targets, supply chain issues and house prices surging across the country, these conversion projects can provide valuable answers to the lack of affordable housing.

The economic impact of the pandemic has left numerous retail spaces empty and unused. By retrofitting and converting them into homes, developers can leverage their sustainability credentials while playing an active part in regenerating high streets across the country and providing well-connected housing to those in need.

At HSPG, we have seen first hand how these measures can benefit people. Our conversion projects, including the transformation of a former William Hill branch into flats for people who have experienced domestic violence, are testament to the success of a multi-strategy approach.

Yes, new builds are desperately needed to increase the supply of housing, but retrofitting existing buildings is another vital strategy in ensuring a sustainable future for us all.

Guy Horne, chief executive and co-founder, HSPG