Architecture firm Make put sustainability at the heart of its building projects

27/07/2023 Lawrence Bewes

Architecture firm Make has become an industry leader in sustainable architecture projects across three continents by applying innovation to reducing carbon emissions to net zero.

Make is an architecture firm based in London, Hong Kong and Sydney. Founded in 2004, the company aims to design the best places, spaces, and buildings in the world.

For Make, great design doesn’t just mean aesthetic appeal. Great design also means improving the environmental impact of its buildings. For this reason, the company’s target is net zero carbon emissions in all designs by 2030.

Passive design, waste reduction, and energy performance have been key to achieving net zero.

Reducing embodied carbon in buildings

Make started with reducing embodied carbon in building projects. This was directed at creating buildings that are more resilient to climate change.

Actions the company took included:

  • examining any opportunities for re-using and retrofitting materials
  • using recycled, low-carbon, long-lasting materials and low-carbon construction practices
  • reducing operational carbon (energy sources such as heating or lighting used in buildings) to minimise the need for offsetting
  • using circular economy solutions to reduce emissions and waste over a building’s lifespan

Make has already designed its London studio so that it is net zero carbon for Scope 1 and 2 emissions.

The studio’s electrical supply is 100% renewable, with passive and low-carbon space conditioning. The embodied carbon of the space itself is also low, as a retrofit of an old car park.

Make's London studio

Make’s London studio has a zero carbon footprint

Protecting the environment from pollution

Make prioritised protecting the environment from:

  • pollution
  • resource depletion
  • ecological harm
  • biodiversity loss

Measures the company took included:

  • selecting brownfield sites where possible
  • creating biodiverse green spaces to complement and enhance local ecosystems
  • promoting sustainable, diversified land use and productive landscaping
  • thinking imaginatively about water use, from on-site harvesting and recycling to potable water conservation and stormwater collection
  • avoiding toxic supply chains and construction practices that contribute to air, water or soil pollution

Developing a sustainable design toolkit

Make developed a toolkit so its architects and wider project team can ask clients the right questions throughout the design process to ensure sustainable design.

The toolkit lists metrics, examples and best practices. All of these demonstrate how to achieve a lower-impact building. Make’s toolkit is key to embedding sustainable design across all aspects of the practice.

Creating a sustainability working group

Make set up an internal sustainability working group to educate and encourage action among staff to deal with the climate emergency.

The group has members from teams across all the company’s studios. It includes a materials scientist, a sustainable design coordinator and two sustainability researchers.

The group meets monthly to discuss current projects and the technical challenges of architectural design in a climate emergency. This ensures employees have the information, tools and confidence to commit to climate action.

Business benefits

Make has established an international reputation for innovation and green architectural solutions. This has helped the company to become an industry leader in sustainable design projects across three continents.

As a result, Make attracts clients with increasingly ambitious projects. For example, the company recently began working with Salford City Council to deliver a master plan designed to break down barriers to active travel, reduce car dominance, and support existing ecosystems and wildlife across a 250-acre site.

Make is keen to keep pushing boundaries for sustainable architectural design and reduce its carbon footprint as far as it will go.

Joining the SME Climate Hub

Make Architects has made the climate commitment and joined the global Race to Zero.

Oliver Hall says: “Far too often, organisations restrict themselves to advocacy within their own industry. The SME Climate Hub is an opportunity for cross-sector collaboration, enabling us as architects to work together with other similar-sized businesses to mitigate the effects of the climate emergency.”

“It’s essential we put our hands up to support positive change, showing that every organisation of every industry has a role to play.”

Do you want to signal your customers, suppliers and employees that you are serious about the transition to a net zero future? Make the SME Climate Commitment today and start using the tools and resources we have curated with Oxford university to help get you there.

Advice for other SMES

“The first step is the hardest. Addressing climate change and transitioning your business to net zero can look like an impossible task, but we have found that if you have the drive and empower your employees, change can happen quicker than you might expect.”

Tell us what climate action you’ve taken

Small businesses such as Make Architecture provide invaluable insights about the journey towards climate change. Interested in sharing your own climate journey for potential inclusion as a business spotlight? Get in touch.

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