Professor Max Fordham

It is with great sadness that we announce that Max Fordham, the acclaimed engineer and pioneer of sustainable building design, passed away at his home on 4th January 2022.

Max pursued a new approach to engineering based on his insatiable curiosity about how buildings work. He resisted pigeonholing into the conventional boxes of mechanical or electrical engineering, and was always interested in the whole building. He took a creative, but essentially practical, approach to building services design. Designing from first principles, he was often quoted as saying “start with the edge of the universe as a boundary and quickly narrow down to the specific problem”.

In 1966, Max, alongside his wife Taddy, set up Max Fordham Consulting Engineer. The practice was founded on the idea of engineers bringing scientific knowledge into the art of building design. He developed his skills in what was then considered the new field of heating engineering to test his idea. Invention, innovation and success followed. The design of the practice itself, becoming Max Fordham & Partners in 1974 (a Partnership), was key to its success. 

Max and his practice won significant and varied recognition for their work in ensuring human comfort by giving buildings heat, power, water and ventilation in sustainable and elegant ways.

Notable projects under Max’s leadership, include Tate St Ives, Alexandra Road Estate, Judge Institute Cambridge, and Contact Theatre in Manchester. These along with his lecturing (at the University of Bath) and other teaching earned Max many prestigious honours, including: Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers (FCIBSE); Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering; Honorary Fellow of the RIBA; awarded the Prince Philip Designers Prize by the Royal Society of Art, recognised as “a pioneer of environmental design for buildings” (2008); voted into the inaugural Building Hall of Fame (2006); The Queen’s Award for Enterprise, Sustainable Development (2004); CIBSE Gold Medal (1997); and, Order of the British Empire, OBE, for services to engineering (1994).

From the start, Max sought a collaborative partnership approach to running a business to encourage shared responsibility and a feeling of ownership

Max himself said "it's a responsibility-sharing scheme, not a profit-sharing scheme”. Max Fordham LLP, as it came to be known in 2001, was the first business in the British construction industry to become a Limited Liability Partnership.

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