GIRI forum. Changing places; how can we avoid errors when repurposing existing buildings?

Location: Online

Date: Monday 17th May 2021

Time: 1:00pm - 2:30pm

Cost: Free (Open to GIRI members and industry professionals)

The first event in GIRI's fourth series of discussion forums will focus on the issues that arise when repurposing existing buildings for new uses. 

As the post-Covid landscape begins to take shape, it seems likely that there will be significant changes in demand for retail and office space, and many existing buildings will need to be repurposed. This forum will consider how the risk of error differs on refurbishment projects compared to new-builds, and what measures we can take to reduce it.  


1. Introduction and GIRI update from GIRI Executive Director.

2. Group discussion to identify examples of successful retrofit projects.

3. An overview of the context, considering what makes it such an urgent issue.


  • The fact that 80% of the buildings we will use in 2050 are already built.
  • The impact of COVID, and the need to urgently repurpose existing buildings.
  • Government targets to create 300,000 new homes a year, a large part of which may be met through repurposing existing buildings.
  • New planning laws which grant automatic approval for change of use to residential.
  • The legal requirement to cut carbon emissions by 78% by 2035. Repurposing existing buildings typically reduces carbon consumption by 70% compared to demolition and rebuilding.
  • Introduction of the RIBA's 'Retro First' campaign, and possible tax changes to make retrofit more economic.

4. Interactive lesson to explore current methods for managing 'normal' construction, and an explanation of how GIRI typically works to prevent error on these projects.

  • Typical supply chain relationships with a 'normal' project lifecycle
  • The RIBA stages.
  • How GIRI's approach influences communication, behaviour, interfaces, and optimism bias in order to prevent error.

5. Group workshop to identify how projects to retrofit and repurpose existing buildings differ from new-build projects.

  • Questioning our normal 'waterfall' approach to planning and delivery.
  • Key implications for each party in the supply chain, from client through to operative.

6. Group workshop to consider how repurposing existing buildings can lead to error:

  • Reviewing the GIRI top-ten root causes of error, in the context of repurposing projects.
  • Identifying any other relevant root-causes of error which emerge on such projects.

7. Discussion of key measures to prevent error on repurposing projects:

  • Personal experiences from previous projects.
  • Applying the GIRI ‘golden thread’ of behaviours, communication and process in the context of repurposing projects.

8. Summary and reflection from GIRI Executive Director.


Background reading:

Architects’ Journal “Retro First” Campaign:

Post-COVID, Repurposing offices for housing:

You Tube Video – IStructE Recorded lecture – Principles of reusing existing structures:

UKGBC – Carbon impact of the built environment:,is%20decarbonising%20our%20existing%20stock

Permitted development rights – change of use of existing buildings:

Architecture awards for repurposing of existing buildings:


To register please email before midday on Friday 14th May.

Meeting link will be sent out after registration closes.

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