Press release: SAVE announces 2023 annual lecture at Royal Academy

Simon Sturgis will call for a revolution in architecture and development

Tickets go on sale for Architecture and Climate Crisis: How the past can save the future

2nd February 2023

SAVE Britain’s Heritage today announces details of its 2023 annual lecture which will be held at the Royal Academy of Arts in London and online on 7th March.

Net zero and sustainability specialist Simon Sturgis will use the high-profile event to call for a revolution in architecture in response to the climate emergency. He will make the compelling case that one of our most effective responses to the crisis is to make demolition of buildings the last resort – not the first.

“Architecture is facing its biggest change since the First World War,” he will say. “Architectural thought has been effectively dormant for the last 90 years and now needs a thought revolution to help solve the climate crisis.”

Simon Sturgis is one of the country’s leading experts in the emerging field of embodied carbon in the built environment. He is managing partner of the consultancy Targeting Zero and an advisor to government, MPs the EU and industry.

Simon was SAVE’s chief sustainability witness at the public inquiry in October last year where we highlighted the massive carbon waste of Marks and Spencer’s plans to demolish their flagship building at Marble Arch.

Our Marks and Spencer campaign attracted widespread press and public interest because of three key ingredients: a well-loved heritage landmark on Oxford Street; a household name; and the potentially far-reaching consequences this case could have for construction and development. 

It is the first time carbon and heritage have both been at the heart of a public inquiry in the UK. With the Secretary of State’s decision expected by early May, it is being widely viewed as a landmark case.

The built environment is responsible for about 40% of global carbon emissions – more than any other sector – which means cutting development’s emissions would have a disproportionately positive impact on our carbon footprint.

This presents us with an urgent obligation to change the way we do development, Simon will argue. Even the “greenest” new-build proposal – which just five years ago would have been welcome – is now arguably an obstacle to the UK’s progress towards its legally binding commitment to be net zero by 2050.

As a result, the retrofit and reuse of existing buildings must become the starting point of any development brief. As architect Carl Elefante’s mantra has it, “the greenest building is the one that already exists”.

The SAVE annual lecture, Architecture and Climate Crisis: How the past can save the future will be held on 7th March in the stunning David Chipperfield-designed Benjamin West Lecture Theatre at the Royal Academy’s Burlington Gardens building – itself a great example of a retrofit which gave a historic building a viable new future. It is a hybrid event and tickets to watch online are also available.



Notes to editors

1/ For more information contact Elizabeth Hopkirk: / 020 7253 3500

2/ SAVE's lecture, Architecture and Climate Crisis: How the past can save the future is on 7th March, 6-8pm. It is being generously hosted by the Royal Academy of Arts and is also a hybrid event. Find a link to in-person and online tickets HERE

3/ The Royal Academy of Arts in Piccadilly has a celebrated annual architecture programme including exhibitions, performances, debates and talks by leading practitioners.

4/ SAVE is a registered charity and does not receive any government funding. All proceeds from this event will go direct to our campaigning work. 

5/ SAVE Britain’s Heritage is an independent voice in conservation that fights for threatened historic buildings and sustainable reuses. We stand apart from other organisations by bringing together architects, engineers, planners and investors to offer viable alternative proposals. Where necessary, and with expert advice, we take legal action to prevent major and needless losses. Our success stories range from Smithfield Market in London and Wentworth Woodhouse stately home in Yorkshire, to a Lancashire bowls club and the Liverpool terraces where Ringo Starr grew up.