Experts admit it was a mistake to knock down old buildings

 In Home Improvements

Experts who encouraged people over many years to demolish old buildings and replace them with energy efficient new ones have now admitted that was a mistake.

The Architects Journal says it was an error because of the excessive carbon emissions from making the steel, cement and bricks for replacement buildings.

Now they are calling for owners to be given incentives by the Government to upgrade these old structures and they have the backing of 14 winners of the Stirling Prize, the most prestigious architecture award for innovation. 

“It is a sensible move,” said Midlands energy expert Ron Fox, “but it is interesting how the building industry has turned full circle in my lifetime.”

He says the problem is that concrete is the most widely used man-made material in existence and cement, its key ingredient, has a massive carbon footprint, being responsible for up to 8 per cent of global emissions. 

Concrete, used to create hard surfaces, also causes damage to topsoil, the most fertile layer of the earth’s surface, whose loss may in turn may lead to soil erosion, water pollution and flooding.

The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) is also asking the government to change the VAT rules which can make it cheaper to rebuild rather refurbishing a standing building. 

The RICS has estimated that 35 per cent of the lifecycle carbon from a typical office development is emitted before the building is even opened and for residential properties it’s 51 per cent.

‘It’s crazy that the government actually incentivises practices that create more carbon emissions,” said Ron, of Noreus Ltd on the University of Keele Science and Innovation Park in North Staffordshire. “We have got to stop pulling buildings down needlessly and make carbon savings now.” 

He added: “In the past the government said that the EU would not allow zero VAT on renovation – but there is nothing to stop them cutting the VAT now we are out of the EU. 

“However, everyone needs to be careful and get the property checked by a specialist,” added Ron, “because it may not be worth the expense and the effort if there are numerus repair problems. But then people may consider a partial rather than a complete demolition.” 

He also accepts there are certain scenarios when there is no choice but to demolish, such as when the building has a weak foundation, or it is made with hazardous materials or it so old and abandoned and there is no reason to keep it. 

But he reminds owners that they must hire professionals to handle the removal of the hazardous materials and substances to ensure that the processes are handled properly. 

If the abandoned buildings are home to termites, bees, rats, and other wildlife, then an exterminator should be contacted immediately if the problem is severe.

If you have an old building and want ideas to develop it in a green and environmental way call Ron on 0845 474 6641.

Caption: The old Worcester Royal Infirmary, which was opened as a voluntary hospital on January 11, 1746, stood derelict for years after it was closed in 2002. Now it has been redeveloped as part of Worcester University.

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