CONFERENCE: Net Zero and the Circular Economy

Join Rachel Hoolahan, Architect and Sustainability Coordinator at Orms, on 15th September at 2pm to find out the Architect’s view on involving demolition specialists in the early stages of the design process. A flavour of Rachel’s conference session is below.


Most of us are familiar with delivering ‘Net Zero’ and ‘Circular Economy’ goals on projects, but historically these sustainability targets were often seen as box ticking exercises. In the past year, we have seen a noticeable shift in the conversations happening during the design stages, which will result in a transition towards more meaningful material reuse within redevelopment.

We believe that the capabilities of the demolition industry are not being fully appreciated by design teams, and that there is a need for involvement of demolition specialists in the early stages of the design process. Existing tools such as pre-demolition audits could be expanded to enable the creation of a materials database and materials passports for existing buildings. Deconstruction plans should be used at design stages to ensure practical solutions are embedded in the design approach.

The goal of all of this? To encourage significant material reuse, the development of a circular economy and the pursuit of true net zero development.


Rachel Hoolahan is an architect and sustainability co-ordinator at Orms Architects, a leading London practice with extensive experience working with existing buildings. For the past few years, the practice has engaged in a series of deep research assignments and is utilising this data and knowledge to push the boundaries of sustainable development – both in refurbishment and new build projects.

Recently, she led a research piece on material passports as part of a wider Grosvenor Estate Innovation Project into material reuse. The outcome of this work is a methodology for encouraging more meaningful material reuse, by creating a material database for the project. The approach is deliberately open source and flexible, allowing design teams of any size or skill set to apply the work to their projects.

As partners for the UKGBC Circular Economy Programme, Orms will be continuing their support for this research stream, which has already resulted in several industry guides and tools. Orms are also active participants in the Circular Economy Live Project Forum which has three working groups carrying out deeper analysis into key topics. Rachel leads the Design for Circularity working group which is currently producing a template framework for a Deconstruction Plan.

Rachel has recently been nominated for the 2021 AJ100 Sustainability Champion Award.