SAVE Britain’s Heritage annual lecture focuses on demolition of historic buildings only as last resort

SAVE Britain’s Heritage’s 2023 annual lecture will be held at the Royal Academy of Arts in London -and online- on 7th March, in a hybrid event that you can join wherever you are.

Net zero and sustainability specialist Simon Sturgis will use the occasion to call for a revolution in architecture in response to the climate emergency. He will make the compelling case that one of our most effective responses to the crisis is to make demolition of buildings the last resort – not the first.

UNRESTRICTED THEATRE SAYS: This is particularly pertinent to the demolition by stealth that we are currently seeing in historic theatres and cinema buildings across the UK which occupy valuable sites that developers are slavering to get delisted and demolished. There are a number of high-profile sites worth supporting with your interest, including Dudley Hippodrome, the last purpose-built professional theatre in its area which has been actively targeted by the visionless local council; and the State Grays cinema, bought by Wetherspoons and left to rot with a gaping hole in the roof to hasten its decline. We must all work to ensure that greedy developers don’t profit from the loss of our historic built environment by unscrupulous owners who actively work to destroy assets of local community value.

“Architecture is facing its biggest change since the First World War,” Sturgis will say. “Architectural thought has been effectively dormant for the last 90 years and now needs a thought revolution to help solve the climate crisis.”

Simon Sturgis is one of the country’s leading experts in the emerging field of embodied carbon in the built environment. He is managing partner of the consultancy Targeting Zero and an advisor to government, MPs the EU and industry.

Simon was SAVE’s chief sustainability witness at the public inquiry in October last year where we highlighted the massive carbon waste of Marks and Spencer’s plans to demolish their flagship building at Marble Arch.

SAVE’s Marks and Spencer campaign attracted widespread press and public interest because of three key ingredients: a well-loved heritage landmark on Oxford Street; a household name; and the potentially far-reaching consequences this case could have for construction and development.

It is the first time carbon and heritage have both been at the heart of a public inquiry in the UK. With the Secretary of State’s decision expected by early May, it is being widely viewed as a landmark case.

The built environment is responsible for about 40% of global carbon emissions – more than any other sector – which means cutting development’s emissions would have a disproportionately positive impact on our carbon footprint.

This presents us with an urgent obligation to change the way we do development, Simon will argue. Even the “greenest” new-build proposal – which just five years ago would have been welcome – is now arguably an obstacle to the UK’s progress towards its legally binding commitment to be net zero by 2050.

As a result, the retrofit and reuse of existing buildings must become the starting point of any development brief. As architect Carl Elefante’s mantra has it, “the greenest building is the one that already exists”.

The SAVE annual lecture, Architecture and Climate Crisis: How the past can save the future will be held on 7th March in the stunning David Chipperfield-designed Benjamin West Lecture Theatre at the Royal Academy’s Burlington Gardens building – itself a great example of a retrofit which gave a historic building a viable new future.

It is a hybrid event and tickets to watch online are also available.

Find more information, and book tickets (from £5), here

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