Prince Philip Designers Prize goes to ‘zero hero’ Max Fordham

Visionary engineer who pioneered environmental design for buildings wins royal award recognising a lifetime achievement in design for business and society

05 November 2008

Professor Max Fordham OBE FREng FCIBSE FRIBA, a pioneer of the green building movement who has been responsible for some of the UK’s most exciting sustainable building projects, has won the Prince Philip Designers Prize 2008.

He was presented with the award, which recognises outstanding lifetime achievement in design, by H.R.H. The Duke of Edinburgh at a ceremony at the Design Council in London this evening, Wednesday 5 November.

In a career spanning over 40 years, Max Fordham and the consultancy that bears his name have helped to create and define the discipline of environmental design and engineering for buildings. A pioneer of low and zero carbon development, he has contributed to some of the most environmentally advanced buildings in the UK - including Tate St Ives, Poole Arts Centre and Lord’s Cricket Ground’s indoor school – and become a guru for the green building movement.

Design Council Chief Executive David Kester said: ‘Max Fordham is a true pioneer of sustainable design. He’s been the Intel Inside at the very heart of groundbreaking low and zero carbon projects in the UK and all over the world. Building services are responsible for almost half of the UK’s carbon dioxide emissions, so it’s timely that the Prince Philip prize - which rewards a lasting design contribution to society - should this year be awarded to an engineer whose legacy to the planet is genuinely environmental and sustainable design.’

Richard Seymour and Dick Powell, one of the UK’s most high profile design duos, received a Special Commendation for their impressive international client list and their tireless advocacy, which has enhanced the understanding of design and the standing of design itself.

Sir John and Lady Frances Sorrell, whose educational Sorrell Foundation has helped thousands of school children understand the value of design, and whose vision in forming the London Design Festival has done so much to promote the capital as the world’s design hub, also received a Special Commendation.

The other nominees for the Prize were car designer Ian Callum RDI, architects Sir Jeremy Dixon and Professor Edward Jones, product designer Sam Hecht, fashion designer Betty Jackson CBE RDI, architect and designer Amanda Levete, and brand and identity specialist Mary Lewis.

The UK’s longest-running annual design prize, the Prince Philip Designers Prize celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2009. It aims to reward designers who have made a significant contribution to building Britain’s worldwide design reputation. The winning designer was chosen by a selection panel chaired by His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh.

Former winners of the Prize include Thomas Heatherwick RDI (2006); the architect Lord Foster of Thamesbank (2004); Habitat founder Sir Terence Conran (2003); Pentagram co-founder Kenneth Grange (2000) and inventor James Dyson (1997).

For more information and images please contact Saskia Sissons at the Design Council on 020 7420 5248; 07773 768 073 or

Notes to editors:

  1. The Prince Philip Designers Prize, which was first awarded in 1959, is run by the Design Council. It is awarded annually to recognise a design career which has upheld the highest standards and broken new ground, while raising the status of design in business and the public sector and also contributing to design education. Nominees are put forward by professional organisations and educational establishments.
  2. Judging takes the following into account: contribution to the perception of design by industry and the public, and to the status of designers; influence on design standards and trends; record of successful design for consumer and industrial products or buildings, especially success in the marketplace; originality of concepts, patents and other intellectual property rights; aesthetic quality of designs; structural, manufacturing or engineering quality of designs; contribution to design education.
  3. The judging panel is chaired every year by H.R.H. The Duke of Edinburgh. Other panel members this year were Sir Michael Bichard, Chairman of the Design Council, Professor Chris Wise RDI, FREng, HonFRIBA, Graham Cartledge CBE, Peter Head OBE FREng, David Kester, Professor Clive Richards MPhil PhD(RCA) FCSD FRSA, and Richard Williams.
  4. The Design Council is the national strategic body for design. Our mission is to inspire and enable the best use of design to make the UK a more competitive, creative and sustainable nation. 

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The Prince Philip Designers Prize

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See the full list of nominees from 2008, read extracts from Max Fordham's acceptance speech and discover the history of the Prince Philip Designers Prize.

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