Neil Andrew on Perkins&Will winning The Eco Award & design being like jazz

In the second video in our series with GROHE X that celebrates the winners from The Brit List Awards 2022, editor Hamish Kilburn meets Neil Andrew, Head of Hospitality at Perkins&Will, the studio that won The Eco Award. In the exclusive  interview, the pair discuss how the studio is pivoting to be carbon-zero in all its projects by 2030…

Image of Neil Andrew, Head of Hospitality at Perkins&Will

Since 2018, The Eco Award category in The Brit List Awards campaign has become one of the most congested. With almost every supplier now claiming to be sustainable – and with hospitality projects emerging on a daily basis to really push the social agenda forward – the winner of such an award needs to enrapture the judges with meaningful, conscious solutions that the whole industry can benefit from. Cue the arrival of Perkins&Will, which in 2021 published Net-Zero Now: Hospitality, a report tailored specifically to the hospitality industry that sets out a series of targets to be net-zero embodied carbon, as demonstrated through a Whole Life Carbon, by 2030.

In order to understand what, in practical terms, that means, I met with Neil Andrew, Head of Hospitality at the studio. Not only did I want to understand more about the research and developments that were happening behind the scenes, but I was intrigued to also learn more about Andrew’s approach to hotel design, which it turns out, is inspired and fuelled by a good rhythm.

“Think of it [the project] as a jazz band – that’s often how I see design,” he said when asked to explain how he designs spaces. “If you are creating a public area, for example, you give one big feature the spotlight and allow everything else to sit back and compliment that piece. That approach is a great way to strip out excess bits and bobs you don’t need.” What strikes me about Andrew is his passion for creativity. His ability to design spaces that are fun, playful and heavily embedded into their location marry nicely with the company’s aims to set new standards in sustainable design.

“As a company we have been at the forefront of sustainable design for more than 25 years,” Andrew explained. “It [incorporating net-zero into design] is not something you can switch on overnight – it is a process. The good thing about the term ‘net-zero’ is that people can understand and get hold of from outside the industry.”

In addition to laying down clean and firm pledges around become a leading, socially aware studio, Perkins&Will has a focus on making concept a reality. In 2020, while the industry was in its forced hibernation from the pandemic, Perkins&Will took the opportunity to present a futuristic net-zero hotel concept for the Sleep&Eat conference. The experimental, digital installation has now been commissioned to be designed as a prototype by a leading hotel brand that is expected to be unveiled in spring 2023. What’s better than one concept becoming a reality? Last year, we were told that a second client has appointed the team to create a net-zero aparthotel prototype, which is currently on the drawing board and will also be opened in 2023.

Outside the studio, Andrew’s passion lies in music – he was seen commanding the audience from behind the DJ booth at HIX last year. At a young age, as well as developing a zest for fine art, he was also learning to DJ and make music. When encouraged by his mother to consider his career choices carefully, Andrew decided to become an interior designer, and used his flair for art and music to carve out his own personality on the interior design scene. Much more than a side hustle, his itch for creative stimulation has led him to question conventional approaches to hospitality design and, more importantly, lead from within a team.

With everything going on behind the studio doors at Perkins&Will, transparency is being recognised as the answer to overall progression. What makes the studio a worthy winner of such an award such as The Eco Award is that it is preparing to share its research and impart knowledge with the rest of the interior design community – whoever will listen. And that, the willingness to collaborate and grow stronger together, is what a modern leader looks like in 2023.

Applications / nominations for The Brit List Awards 2023 will open in the summer. The process to apply is free for all designers, architects, hoteliers and suppliers alike. This is one of three videos that Hotel Designs will launch in association with GROHE, Broadcasting Partner of The Brit List Awards, to amplify a handful of the winners from last year’s campaign.

Main image credit: Perkins&Will