Long Life, Low Energy: Designing for a Circular Economy

27 October 2023 - 14 January 2024

Building: Murray Mills
Location: Ancoats, Manchester
Architect: Fielden Clegg Bradley

“This exhibition delivers an incredibly important and timely message. With the climate emergency an increasingly present threat, ideas and innovations that minimise the environmental impact of our built environment are more vital than ever.” says Chief Executive of RIBA, Valerie Vaughan-Dick, by way of introduction to the Long Life Low Energy Exhibition, on show at Mann Island - RIBA North’s and Tate Liverpool’s collaborative temporary home.

“Drawing on our extensive collections, Long Life, Low Energy provides a snapshot of where we are now and a glimpse into a more hopeful future. It showcases the pioneering work of architects who are already leading the charge, utilising circular economy principles to reuse and upgrade existing buildings. This includes wonderful examples of projects in the North West that we hope will open conversations and inspire a new generation of climate-literate designers.

With 50,000 buildings demolished in the UK each year and construction sites generating 63% of all UK waste, the exhibition examines the history and culture of demolition. It reveals how architects and designers are innovating to reuse materials and repurpose existing buildings – and the ways in which future technologies might help navigate the climate emergency.

Having previously been hosted at RIBA’s London building, the relaunched exhibition will showcase the inspiring work of architects in the North of England, including the transformation of Manchester’s Murrays' Mills – the world’s oldest steam-powered cotton mill – into a thriving neighbourhood of apartments (by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios) and the re-modelling of the Liverpool’s Grade II Listed Andrew Carnegie Library to provide a childcare facility and community hub (by OMI Architects).

Partner at Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, Hugo Marrack, said:
“Working with the character and structure of existing buildings not only keeps our history alive, but is the most sustainable approach we can take to development.

“Murrays’ Mills is the oldest surviving steam-powered cotton mill in the world, part of Manchester’s former industrial and now thriving residential Ancoats neighbourhood. In bringing it back into use, we wove together old fabric, new uses and new buildings, establishing a subtle but resilient intervention in the City. Through conservation and retrofit, we have the opportunity to keep buildings like these and the stories they tell as part of our culture, as well as keeping our carbon impact low.”

From 27 October visitors will also be able to view a series of short films featuring the six exceptional buildings shortlisted for this year’s RIBA Stirling Prize – including The University of Warwick Faculty of Arts Building - the highest accolade in architecture. The films offer insight into the design of the nominated projects which all offer thoughtful and creative responses to complex societal challenges.

Long Life, Low Energy is open Monday to Sunday, 10.00 - 17.50 at RIBA North, 21 Mann Island, Liverpool Waterfront, Liverpool, L3 1BP.