Jane Embury looks at an influential report on demolition and CO2 emissions
The trouble with the built environment is that it keeps getting knocked down.
We’ve said several times that we should, where possible, reuse old buildings.
It’s an important issue with the environment now top of the political agenda. According to a report from RICS and World Built Environment Forum, we’re not going fast enough to decarbonise building stock.
Now, the Royal Academy of Engineering has also joined the debate. They say that a new way of thinking is needed.
The Academy is urging the government to stop buildings being demolished. Because we tend to think of carbon emission as being mainly about cars and aircraft.
However, making bricks and steel creates also causes emissions. Cement alone causes 8% of global emissions.
Among their recommendations, they say the construction industry should where possible re-use buildings.
They are concerned about “embodied emissions” – the CO2 emitted when buildings and materials are made.
Prof Rebecca Lunn from Strathclyde University, one of the report’s authors, said: “Our biggest failure is that we build buildings, then we knock them down and throw them away. We must stop doing this.”
The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) estimates that 35% of the lifecycle carbon from a typical office development is emitted before the building is even opened. The figure for residential premises is 51%.
It’s a repurposing strategy that’s also supported by architects. The campaign by the Architects’ Journal is backed by 14 Stirling Prize winners
Repurposing old buildings makes more sense than ever. It’s why we’ve said that we must develop long-term strategies to repurpose our urban areas.
Also, changes in business practice that would maybe have taken many years have happened in one year.
While many people will return to their offices, the future of office work no longer means having to work in an office.
We therefore welcomed the City of London’s plans to turn redundant offices into residential apartments. It would bring added vibrancy to the City.
It’s particularly pertinent because last week was National Recycle Week. We all now recognise the importance of minimising waste.
It’s about recognising that old buildings can and should, wherever possible, be repurposed.
Jane Embury is a director of Wrightstyle
Photo is of Bracken House in London, a refurbishment project to which we supplied systems.