New London Architecture

Showcasing the value of sustainable fit-out

Thursday 08 February 2024

Joanna Wilson, Sustainability Lead at Fletcher Priest Architects reflects on our recent webinar discussing the benefits of prioritising sustainability when approaching fit-out.

The most compelling sustainable fit-outs emphasise the value that sustainable strategies can bring. They are also the key to making these approaches more mainstream. Following the NLA’s Sustainable Fit-Out webinar on 16 January 2024, it was clear our collective challenge as an industry is to consider how to enhance and emphasise the value of sustainability.

The value of ‘net zero’

We have already seen the demand for ‘net zero carbon’ projects skyrocket, as well as companies increasingly claiming to be carbon neutral. As was raised in the webinar, once embodied carbon benchmarks for fit-outs are agreed upon and required to meet these project labels, and commercial space fit-out is included in companies’ scope 3 reporting, the willingness of clients to invest in carbon reduction measures will increase. 

Narrative and character 

However, it is the sustainability narrative as a whole that can be the most powerful tool to engage clients in sustainable design decisions. 

Occupiers are increasingly seeking more characterful spaces that reflect their own values. Designs that embrace variation and patina can actually create more engaging and vibrant spaces for clients and users while enabling the use of reclaimed and refurbished materials. This move away from uniformity generally accommodates repair and refurbishment with significantly less disruption and cost as updates can be done incrementally. It also enables the use of local supply chains, connecting clients and occupiers to their local community. 

Finding synergies

As a project team, we can also use sustainable solutions that align with other client requirements. We can save cost, and also carbon, by procuring less but better quality materials, and retaining what is already on site. Material retention is often a creative starting point for us, where resurfacing, repurposing and reconfiguring offer a wealth of aesthetic possibilities. 

As was raised in the webinar, we can optimise the specification of elements, such as acoustic partitions, and by testing out spaces in-person with a client, reducing cost, and carbon, in the process. Alternatively, the use of virtual reality can help clients understand the options to refine designs and reduce redundancy, particularly with speculative fit-outs.


While there are many things that we can improve through design, project processes, such as programme and procurement, need to reflect the time required to identify and resolve sustainable strategies. Collaborating earlier in the design process is therefore a key step to unlocking a more circular approach.  Sharing our successes and lessons learned, including through webinars such as these, is the catalyst for developing innovative solutions and the wider realisation of the value of sustainable fitout.

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