Liz Westgarth on designing our way to a zero waste future

Liz Westgarth, Hassell’s Managing Director writes on the pursuit of a zero-waste future for the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Journal. 

When I joined Hassell ten years ago in 2013, I knew that designing for the future of the planet needed to be a key focus for the industry – which is why it is so exciting to be leading Hassell into the next phase of its evolution within a zero-waste lens.

Designers, architects and construction companies have a vital responsibility to cultivate a sustainable future. Alongside creating a circular economy, the industry should respond creatively to these new challenges for design within a global context and foremostly, we must design out waste. 

This is not a new problem for the sector; the built environment and construction sector accounts for almost 40% of global carbon emissions, and worldwide, the construction industry consumes almost all of the planet’s cement, 26% of its aluminium, 50% of steel and 25% of all plastics.

Achieving a zero-waste future cannot be solved by architects alone. Experts across design disciplines – from products to engineering, fashion and materials – need to be working together to achieve zero waste and circularity. 

We have a business and moral imperative to facilitate conversations and foster cross-collaboration to drive this change within the industry.”

— Liz Westgarth, Managing Director

Architects, in the pursuit of zero waste, are compelled to rethink the conventional design trajectory. Beyond aesthetic considerations, we have a strategic commitment to intelligent material management from project inception to completion. 

With research indicating that 80% of the buildings that will be in use in 2050 have already been erected, designs also must be conceived to facilitate disassembly and modification. This involves meticulous planning of materials, contemplating aspects such as material sourcing, storage solutions, design flexibility, waste prevention, resource efficiency, and lifecycle considerations.

At Hassell, we are learning through experimentation. Our Design Innovation Team, headed up from our London Studio, has been working alongside our Head of Sustainability, Samantha Peart on a series of lighthouse projects testing the realms of what is possible. Working within design constraints, such as Circular Economy principles, serves not only as a catalyst for innovation and development within our team but also resonates throughout our broader practice.

Read the full article in RIBA Journal here.


October 24, 2023

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