The Exchange

Pollard Thomas Edwards, Material Index, KNArchitects

The Exchange is a UK-wide network of cooperative, self-build housing and maker workshops located in refurbished telephone exchanges - shaped by reuse, circular economies and mobile tech

Our plan is to:

  • Retrofit telephone exchanges in towns and cities across the UK with new homes for Gen Z renters and buyers
  • Use the Material Index app to track recycled materials and products for use in customising new homes in telephone exchanges
  • Establish a ground floor Skills Exchange workshop in in each telephone exchange alongside a Materials Exchange (a materials and products library) for use by residents and locals

BT’s switch from copper wires to a ‘full-fibre’ network in 2025 will require fewer local telephone exchanges, freeing up to 4600 of these centrally-located, multi-storey, warehouse-style buildings for adaptation by the 2030s. Many have floorplates with grids and good ceiling heights, making them highly adaptable for housing with one, two or three bedrooms.

This inherent adaptability will be supported by Material Index’s app, adapted to allow residents to reserve ‘wish-list’ items from development sites within 50 miles of their telephone exchange home - for delivery to the Materials Exchange. Residents can also use the app to reserve machinery, tools and time with technicians in the Skills Exchange.

The circular nature of The Exchange will help foster a new economy centred upon re-use, providing local people with the skills, materials, products and tools they need to transform their own homes – and the means to train up incoming homeowners to do the same.

Pollard Thomas Edwards
Tom Dollard, Partner – Sustainability and Innovation/Project Lead
Alina Toosy, Associate
Tom Ruff, Architectural Assistant
Rory Olcayto, Writer and Critic
Tim Metclafe, Partner, Communications
Simon Whitley, Partner, Projects and Innovation

Material index
Morgan Lewis, Architect and CEO - App development and integration with design team processes

Karen Isobel Nugent, Heritage and adaptive reuse specialist