As architects and interior designers, the majority of the time we spend on carbon reduction is to help our clients achieve their sustainability goals on their projects, but we also need to lead by example in continuing to improve on our own business carbon footprint.

Last year we put a carbon reduction plan in place, measured and reported on our carbon footprint, and offset the remainder, so it’s with great pleasure that I can announce we now have a carbon zero balance sheet (Scope 1 & 2 emissions). We’ve done this in partnership with TEMWA Carbon Balance, a charity that is aligned with our practice values, creating a direct positive social and environmental impact.

Creating community value through offsetting is an important step for us whilst we simultaneously focus on carbon reduction. Our biggest carbon reduction moves last year have been to completely remove our reliance on gas and deciding to exchange our office pool cars for electric vehicles. We have one remaining car to phase out and then we will be 100% electric.

This year we’ll be looking at what mechanisms we have to buy our electricity from renewable sources, and we’ll continue getting to grips with our Scope 3 emissions – a real challenge for all companies large or small and something that we’re keen to tackle with like-minded partners.

Our strategy is to become climate-positive by continuing to support TEMWA whilst we implement ongoing carbon reductions and enhance social value. We’re on track!

Our continued focus on sustainability resulted in some exemplary project success stories in 2021. As always, there is more that we need to do, but there is a great momentum to build on this year.

Re-purposing existing buildings is central to our objective in creating a positive environmental impact for our clients and we have been part of a significant retrofit programme in 2021 including the Cheltenham Quadrangle, the Somerset County Council De-carbonisation projects, and Mary Ward Centre in Stratford, among many others for both private and public sector clients.

Completing the full retrofit of pivot + mark, our own address in Bristol, was another important moment for us. This has given us an opportunity to represent our values and to create a studio environment that supports the team and reflects who we are.

We took a lot of time last year to help clients do the same: to develop their sustainability brief, relating their net zero carbon aspirations to individual project values, budgets and phasing programmes. One of these is the Vassall Centre Passivhaus project, a mixed-use development with 100% affordable housing, promoting an enriched intergenerational community. Operational energy reduction is key to empower residents to live healthily whilst safeguarding against fuel poverty.

Further accomplishments in 2021 include the launch of the AWW Sustainability Handbook, the development of our embodied carbon tool for early stage design assessment, and continued research with Sheffield University on the circular economy potential of the existing UK building stock.

Last year was about reinforcing the sustainable direction we are headed in and the pace that the industry needs to move at, and it’s been extremely reassuring to see more and more clients aiming over and above legislative requirements to drive the agenda towards a zero carbon future. It’s been equally reassuring to see the AWW response to complex environmental and social challenges and how we are fulfilling our role as design leaders.

We made considerable investment into our sustainability and climate challenge journey in 2021, reaching some key milestones. This year sees no abatement as we continue to strive for the best environmental solutions throughout our practice operation and project delivery. Here’s to 2022.

To acknowledge our ongoing climate commitment, and to progress our understanding into how we monitor, reduce and report our carbon footprint, we have joined the SME Climate Hub and made the SME Climate Commitment. We are proud to be recognised by the United Nations Race to Zero campaign, and join governments, businesses, cities, regions, and universities around the world with the same mission.