The benefits of reusing and repurposing existing buildings

Recently I was invited to take part in the MESH energy webinar series where I talked about the benefits of upgrading and repurposing existing buildings. At a time where the conversation around the environment and climate change is happening across society as a whole, I am always surprised that the design sector is not discussing this issue in more detail and facing it head on with positive solutions.

We have been working on several varied projects that are reusing a current building. Just by looking at the statistics from Historic England, it is astonishing how damaging it is to build a new building when there is an alternative and environmentally better solution.

‘Compared to a refurbishing a traditional Victorian terrace, a new building of the same size produces up to 13 times more embodied carbon. This equates to around 16.4 tonnes of CO2 which is the equivalent of the emissions released by driving 60,000km’

The design approach to repurposing a building is quite different, each project will bring its own challenges and a successful refurbishment is able to turn these into opportunities. Within our ‘October Books’ project, which has repurposed an old high street bank into a community book store, it was not possible to remove the old walk in vault from the building so this was integrated into the interior design and is now used as the storage room with the old door kept in place as a feature behind the service counter.

Our St Margaret’s church project in Southsea, Portsmouth, is nearing completion of Phase 1 of their refurbishment, thermal upgrade, extension and repurpose to deliver a church that could meet the needs of its congregation. The building had no central heating installed, to retrofit this we decided the best solution was an air sourced heat pump and trench underfloor heating, laid in zones across the building. This solution gave us full flexibility across the floor space which was essential for this building. In keeping with the need for internal flexibility we have designed ‘mean-while’ solutions such as seating, screens and even a café on wheels, this allows the interior of the church to be configured and used as the community needs, with future proofing the design and also reducing the costs.

As we had to remove the old parquet flooring, to allow for the underfloor heating and a polished concrete floor, we were delighted that we were able to repurpose it and sell it on. Not only is this environmentally positive but it also raised much needed funds for the church building project.

In each project we believe the key to success has been achieved through two way communications, through deep listening we are able to really understand what people are saying which often unlocks the potential to a space.

The full webinar can be viewed here

‘If you help one person, you help humanity’ Ai Weiwei

RIBA Black History Month

The RIBA, working in collaboration with Paradigm Network, celebrated Black History Month with a special book club held throughout October. I was honoured to be asked to take part in this event, the importance of this movement is inclusion, everyone should be passionate about the accessibility for all to increase diversity and ultimately to drive our industry forward.


The month was about us all appreciating and celebrating the achievements from the BAME communities, and championing professionals from all backgrounds in all sectors of society.


For the Book Club we were all asked to nominate a book or song that has had a profound effect on us as a way of showcasing the inspirational work from Black and Asian talent. I selected the book ‘The Black Album’ by the hugely talented Hanif Kureishi.


This book transports me back to a specific time in my life, of being 23 in my final year of my architectural degree at Portsmouth School of Architecture. It represents a period of awakening for me, I remember it being a wonderfully diverse cultural era in the 1990’s in terms of literature, music, art, architecture, film and of course my education.


I find Hanif Kureishi has such a wonderful way of dealing with some complex social issues around race, religion, sexuality and modern culture, painting the world through wonderfully colourful words and descriptions. I think it’s fair to say, his work has played a huge part in my learning and what I do now in practice.


There was a free webinar on Thursday 29th October where all the design leaders participating in the book club discussed their selection and how it has affected their practice, an interesting insight into what motivates and inspires design leaders.


RIBA Event Details


Studio BAD team grows

We have welcomed Tayseer Kardash into the Studio BAD : Architecture team, we are so delighted that she is joining us to assist with the increased portfolio of work we have going forward, also she brings with her a beautiful design aesthetic which fits so well with our ethos.

I was lucky enough to have worked with Tayseer previously, initially when I was teaching her in my third-year studio at the University of Portsmouth and then later when we were both at PAD studio together. I have always been in slight awe of her, she is quite inspirational and I believe she is one of the most courageous and fearless women I have ever met!

Tayseer is an accomplished designer, she has extensive experience working in Sudan and across the UK, having previously worked with PAD studio, Hyde + Hyde Architects and Design Engine Architects she is extremely experienced with forward thinking designs. She has recently completed her Master of Architecture RIBA Part 2 at Welsh School of Architecture, Cardiff and is planning to start her Part 3 studies later this year.

GUEST BLOG, ANDREW MALBON : Community Architecture, what does it actually mean in practice?

I’d like to share this photograph of St Margaret’s in Eastney which I feel encapsulates aspects of this growing community & the architecture in it all.


The arrow is part of the food bank – absolutely key over lockdown & still providing essential supplies to 200 people a week, staffed by local volunteers. Art on site hoardings isn’t unusual, this piece by Fark (@farkfk on Instagram) has a particular connection to the project. Fark’s up beat & positive style appears all over the city his studio is a few hundred yards away. He’s regularly sourced material to up-cycle from the community shop.


So what’s the architect’s role in all this? Get to know you clients, get to know the community, get involved if you can, keep an open mind. I’ve had the privilege of working with Studio BAD as part of the client body for St Margaret’s, the deep engagement has been critical to evolving the proposals to meet the needs of our community & to reinvigorate this part of the City, you may share this communities’ faith or you may not, but working together extraordinary things are happening.

Andrew Malbon

For the technically minded: Leica MP, 35mm Summilux Lee ND0.6 grad ISO 200, F2.8


So after 18 months of collaborating and community participation, with the wonderful team at St Margaret’s Church in Southsea Portsmouth  and careful allocation of the budget from the church of England. We have commenced on site with Phase 01, which includes a new underfloor heating system, powered by a renewable heat source in Air Source heat pumps, a beautiful new polished concrete floor, new toilets, with a new community cafe and children’s play zone. This is no ordinary church, this is a community Church looking towards the future and re imagining and questioning, just what is Church for the 21 Century? Well for the team at St Margarets its about serving your community through, listening, assisting, offering friendship, offering food through the food bank or clothes from the community shop. This truly is the church of the future, where many activities services sit carefully curated under the umbrella of faith.

We took a day out with the Client team and took them to London for the day, where we visited the showroom of our concrete floor supplier to choose the floor colour. We also took in a visit to the Garden Museum in Lambeth to look at the former Church and how its been refurbished and re imagined. For us every client is unique and its about forming strong bonds on understanding, what our collective ambition and ultimate goals.

We hope to be opening the doors of the Phase 01 refurbishment in early November. But for now the church are raising funds to complete the works here with their Go Fund page

Here is Fran giving a tour of the Church to Love Southsea


Studio B.a.d where appointed in September 2019 to undertake a detailed feasibility study of Holly Cottage a listed house which sits in Meonstoke High street in the heart of the South Downs national park


The feasibility study was commissioned to review how the existing house is used by the family and how it might accommodate, the extended family members and how it responds to the garden and immediate landscape. The feasibility study is a strategic exercise in reviewing the key requirement’s of the family and the wider opportunities, to exploit the potential of the site and beautiful garden.  Its also an opportunity to create greater flexibility within the the plan layout and its relationship to the garden and maximizing long views looking East down the mature garden, lined with flint walls.



The design strategy has been to review and respond to  the existing conditions, which currently exist within both the house and the landscape. The challenge has been to look at a number of design ideas, which have been presented to the conservation officer, in detailed dialogue to establish a positive process.


Studio B.a.d along with our Heritage and planning consultant experts, entered into a series of pre application discussions, working through a number of sketch proposals, reaching successful common ground with the South Downs national park.


A series of options where carefully created, considered and presented, to look at the type of form, material and detailed composition of the various extensions.  The response has been to the existing situation of the sensitive nature of the local vernacular. These options seek to address the excellent position the house holds, with regards to solar orientation. So the options have sought to maximize both the wonderful long views across the site whilst looking to harness the opportunities for a new stand alone annex and study / office space..


As well as the elevational treatments, being carefully considered, with the use of local brick and stained timber. There has been an element of exploiting and opening up the current floor plan condition around the kitchen, to open up views to the flint lined garden.


The final  proposal submitted for planning has sought  at all levels, to engage with the garden, by looking to open up possibilities for the various spaces to exploit the mature surrounding landscape and its relationship to the house and new extension, annex, garage and home office / study.