Exploring ideas around a restorative / net positive built environment, based on our understanding of environmental limits and social equality. We will draw on best practice and emerging knowledge from leading practitioners and thinkers from around the globe on exemplary projects at both the building and neighbourhood level.

Think pieces

We have defined ten sustainability indicators that distinguish high performance, sustainable buildings. The ten indicators are grouped into three cross-cutting themes with an overarching goal of achieving positive outcomes for people, planet and place. We have been using these to create a library of exemplars, showcasing how high performance buildings enable sustainable communities, promote occupant health and wellbeing, and deliver whole-life net zero.

The SDF is also working with other thought leaders on a collective approach to the retrofit of existing buildings across the whole of the UK, in the form of the National Retrofit Hub. This work builds on the National Retrofit Strategy, which was launched in 2021.

Tackling carbon emissions is a global challenge. 43% of the UK’s carbon footprint is produced outside the UK in the supply chains of products imported into the UK, and these “imported” emissions are not covered in the UK’s climate targets. In 2023 the SDF hosted CleanTrade, a new not-for-profit undertaking research into how the UK government could reduce those emissions, saving money in the process, and supporting low-carbon industries in the UK and abroad, which can currently be undercut by imports from places with fewer climate regulations.

SDF lecture series

These visions will be developed through regular lectures, held online and in-person, focusing on restorative sustainability, net positive development and social justice. The lectures are inspired by the memory of the late Neil May MBE. The series will be supported by a series of smaller-scale think pieces and events in specific areas of interest, with the aim of identifying future Grand Challenges.

Our inaugural lecture was held on 2 July 2021. We welcomed guests Prof. Karel Williams and Prof. Julie Froud from the University of Manchester’s Business School, who spoke about the foundational economy. A recording of the lecture can be found here.

The second Neil May Memorial Lecture took place on 20 September 2022 at UCL in London.  Josh Ryan Collins (UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose) discussed the UK and wider high-income economy housing affordability crisis, and the recording is available to watch here.

The 2024 event in the series took place on 21 March, and interrogated mould, damp and health inequalities, with contributions from Dr Andy Knox, Prof. Sani Dimitroulopoulou and Dr Valentina Marincioni. The recording can be watched here.


The SDF has published research to help the drive towards more sustainable buildings, including: