Footprint +

15th June 2023

Bethan and Alex give a whistle stop summary of their key takeaways from Footprint + 2023. 

Footprint+ is an annual event for the UK’s entire built environment industry to come together, knowledge share and make the contacts needed to achieve net zero. This year discussions ranged from Sustainable Innovation: Who drives it? to Regulation and Policy for Embedding a Circular Economy.


The first positive was having every profession represented: contractors, developers, local authorities, architects, engineers, researchers, suppliers and more. Often different disciplines inadvertently create barriers for others to reduce their footprint. For instance, insurers may not initially cover reuse materials but if all parties have the dialogue it can happen. Having a forum such as footprint + is so important for the industry to collaborate and collectively make real change; an industry which contributes a sobering 40% to all global carbon emissions.


Knowledge is Power

One panellist at Footprint called on us to not be lazy specifiers, often changing just a few letters in a specification can have huge impact. 80% of the environmental impact is decided at design stage. But it’s not a question of being lazy. You’d be hard pressed to find a Landscape Architect who doesn’t take protecting the planet seriously. More often not knowing or having the confidence to push forward with the right solution is the problem. At Outerspace we are grounded in the reality of today’s environmental challenges and also believe in the power of design. Therefore, we’re proud that our current CPD programme is focused on upskilling the team to tread lighter with all of our designs.

Circular Economy & Retro fitting

We live on a finite planet and therefore looking inwards to our cities to source materials/ retro fitting spaces is not only good practice but a necessity. As more than 85% of today’s buildings are likely to still be in use in 2050, retrofitting is key. Material Audits was a term which echoed throughout the Footprint tent. It’s a process of appraising site materials from the outset of a project. What can be retained? What can be reused? What can be repurposed? It switches the narrative from waste management to asset management. We’ve now adopted Material Audits into our approach to ensure materials are treated as a resource and not waste and are already seeing the rewards.

Arlington Square, Outerspace project which retained and reused existing materials and retrofitted planting.


“The typical value of a skip load of materials is £1600. We have to switch the narrative away from waste management and talk material flows. What’s deemed as waste to some may be a gold mine to others.”


Loose fit design

Another hot topic was “loose fit design”. Can we give flexibility in the design outcome? For instance zoning an area with flexible dimensions and finish will hugely increase the likelihood of sourcing reuse materials. An example could be designing in an outdoor dining table to a landscape plan and representing it as a boxed off area. When it comes to the specification you would give a maximum and minimum footprint. This approach is uncomfortable for designers & developers who generally have a set polished vision and endeavour to protect it throughout the project stages. Loose fit design is a collective call on us to be less ego and more eco.

Our last talk ended with a perfect statement from David Greenfield, founder of the Brighton & Hove Circular Economy Route map, “lets stop talking to strategy plans and get on with action plans”. We could not agree more, there’s no time to waste.