Earth Day 2022 – Invest in Buildings, Invest in the Planet

Posted by on Apr 22, 2022 in We Are GLM

Earth Day 2022 – Invest in Buildings, Invest in the Planet

Happy Earth Day 2022. As an advocate for sustainable design and our planet I wanted to write a bit about what ‘Earth Day’ means at GLM and the way in which the business’ philosophy is tied in with this year’s theme: investing in the planet.

Since GLM’s inception back in 1995, one focus of the practice has revolved around the careful reuse and adaptation of Scotland’s diverse and historic built environment. More recently the construction industry has defined the adaptations of buildings for greater energy efficiency as ‘retrofitting’. As ‘retrofitting’ becomes an industry norm, we are proud to have been pioneering the concept of adapting and improving our built environment since our initiation. Our focus now at GLM must also be to ensure that our work goes beyond the careful reuse of existing buildings and integrates improving energy efficiency into each project.

The benefits of retrofitting an existing building are wide ranging, and it can offer building users many advantages including lower energy bills, greater energy efficiency and healthy and more comfortable interiors. There are many ways to retrofit a house, varying from single-room improvements to whole house retrofits, but each of these processes are ultimately designed to increase energy efficiency. Thus, the act of retrofitting has a positive impact on our environment and improves the sustainability of homes.

Whole House Retrofit Diagram

Source: Cornwall Housing

Retrofitting existing buildings is often seen as one of the key ways in which the UK construction industry can help achieve the government’s net zero ambition by 2050It is therefore fundamental that as an industry we focus on bringing existing buildings up to the constantly evolving energy efficiency targets rather than building new builds: easier said than done! Overcoming this challenge is a huge opportunity and if done correctly can help provide some huge benefits to the environment.


In practice, retrofitting a building does not have to look like adding triple glazed windows or PV panels onto roofs, as this can be unachievable for properties that are listed or in conservation areas. Retrofitting can also include measures such as draught proofing, adding external wall insulation or even upgrading a boiler or heating system. Reflecting on some of our favourite retrofit projects that GLM have worked on we identified our work with St Oswald’s church where we have been working to upgrade the heating system to low carbon heat pumps. St Peters hall has also been a highlight of the Edinburgh office where we have started work to identify suitable internal wall insulation.

By undertaking these retrofitting projects, the future of a building is preserved, meaning it often benefits from a greater lifespan and the sense of place is not lost. This is critical to our work with historic and heritage buildings, whereby adaptations retain the identity of the building and considered improvements create better spaces which bring a sense of pleasure and delight.

80% of the homes we will occupy in 2050 already exist – UK Green Building Council

As knowledge and interest grows in retrofit, GLM are supporting our clients to appraise the opportunities and challenges involved in retrofitting, using our 25+ years of experience in the built environment. And, whilst the industry evolves we are excited to continuing learning and pushing for a more sustainable built environment.

Finn Caldwell – Architectural Technologist