Year in Review: What our Bristol Office has been up to in 2020

By Innes Johnston

14 December 2020

Max Fordham’s Bristol office began 2020 with the development of University of Plymouth’s new Engineering Facility.

During the year we saw this project continue through RIBA Stages 2-4, targeting a Passivhaus-based 15kWh/m2.year heating demand. We all look forward to it starting on site in earnest in the New Year!

(c) FCBS / Max Fordham LLP

Engineering Facility - Plymouth University is recognised as an innovative leader in higher education for sustainability, across teaching and learning, research and University operations. In 2019, the University declared a climate emergency, aiming to achieve net zero emissions (from scope 1 & 2) by 2025 and fast tracking existing carbon reduction targets.
At the same time further north, our new Catalyst Project at Staffordshire University with FCB Studios started on site and - after only a minor lockdown pause – has continued throughout the year. We are also very excited to have recently begun work on Derby University’s new Business School, a significant project for us and for the University.

Punctuated by trips to the park, group axe-throwing and online gaming, we welcomed three engineers transferring from other Max Fordham offices – rendering us seventeen-strong.

Our side of the net-zero carbon equation has included involvement in the Practice’s internal task group and also going to full planning for a whole-life net-zero house with CSK Architects, using a mixture of near-Passivhaus thermal standards, PV’s, on-site tree planting, and re-use of materials. Innes, Bristol's Office Leader, helped to kick-off the Southwest Construction Declares roundtable sessions and presented to a number of southwest-based architects directly. We also gave a presentation about Net Zero Carbon to St John’s College Oxford, for whom we were engaged to review the performance of the recently completed Archive & Reading Rooms.

Innes also provided support for architecture students at UWE and Bath, and sat on numerous design reviews on behalf of DesignWest.

Sophia, our leading Passivhaus Designer, has been busy throughout the year with work on residential developments as well as student accommodation and new primary schools. Tom, the practice's Building Performance Specialist, has continued championing soft landings and aftercare on a number of fronts, at the UK Hydrographic Office, at Manchester's Contact Theatre, the Southbank Centre in London and a number of school and housing developments across the UK.

Our Group’s work on listed and historic buildings has continued in 2020 with projects as diverse as Poole Museum, Oasis Church Bath, Holt Tanneries, and Belmont House. Our expertise and experience in larger-scale housing has also been consolidated with developments at various stages of design and construction, including Coronation Road and Redcross St in Bristol, and Fulham Gasworks and Agar Grove in London.

Overall, in spite of all that’s gone on around us, it’s been a diverse and busy year!


Innes Johnston is the leader of our Bristol Office. He can be contacted on and +44 (0)117 329 0874.


From 14 - 18 December 2020, we're publishing a series of blog posts written by the leader of each of our five offices across the UK. You can read all of our Year in Review blog posts here.


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