How Public Practice associates are driving retrofit and net zero

Both Shevills and Westcott say their move to the public sector involved a steep learning curve that was well supported by Public Practice through workshops with other associates throughout their placements.

Steve Westcott, low carbon programme manager at Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) says Public Practice has empowered him to work more strategically and ‘be closer to the conversations’ that matter. Off the back of Westcott’s role, GMCA is recruiting additional Public Practice associates.

Westminster Retrofit Task Force

Studio Bark, No Building as Usual


Pooja Agrawal – AJ100 Contribution to the Profession

Public Practice is a social enterprise that places built environment professions in the public sector, primarily in placemaking roles and increasingly in key roles that drive retrofit and net zero.

ACAN co-founder Lauren Shevills, now lead retrofit innovation and delivery officer at Westminster City Council, explains that Public Practice has changed the trajectory of her career, enabling her to marry her passion for community and stakeholder engagement with technical architectural expertise.

Innovate UK Fast Followers Programme

Climate Champions is produced in association with ACAN, the Architects’ Climate Action Network
Podcast produced and edited by Simon Aldous
Music: Edmilson do Pífano, Forró de dois Amigos. Interpretation: Felipe Tanaka e banda Balaio de Baião


Speaking about retrofit, Shevills observes that one major challenge is that retrofit cannot be mandated because it’s currently not part of the planning process.  A retrofit-first policy requires a rethink of current guidance and Westminster Council has five workstreams underway to explore various aspects of retrofit. Westcott explains that a fabric-first approach is often too costly. The GMCA is developing portfolio-wide data collection for the city’s non-domestic estate to inform future grant disbursement decisions.

Lauren Shevills describes herself first and foremost as an environmental activist. She took on the role of lead retrofit innovation and delivery officer at Westminster City Council in October 2023 after an 18-month stint as place shaping officer during her Public Practice placement. She is one of the co-founders of ACAN, the Architects Climate Action Network.

Previously she worked at Studio Bark, at Mae, where she worked on the recent Stirling Prize-winning  John Morden Centre in Blackheath, and at FeildenCleggBradleyStudios. She trained at the Bartlett and at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen.

About Steve Westcott

Councillor Geoff Barraclough AJ Opinion column

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Steve Westcott joined the Greater Manchester Combined Authority in June 2023 through Public Practice after more than 15 years at Astudio architects. His final project at Astudio involved leading the feasibility, planning and delivery of the ongoing  750-home Ebury Estate Regeneration project (phase 1) in Westminster, and this sparked his interest in public sector work. He studied at the Bartlett.

Projects and resources mentioned in this episode

Westminster City Council Retrofit How-to Guides

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About Lauren Shevills