Report Urges Industry to Retrofit and Refurbish to Reduce Embodied Carbon

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Historic England’s Heritage Counts 2019 report, entitled There’s No Place Like Old Homes, was released recently. It notes that the United Kingdom will not be able to meet its ambitions for net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 without significant changes to current practices. The report gave special attention to two issues.

First, there needs to be a shift in methodology for calculating the carbon footprint of new construction. The report claims that the reported “carbon lifetime” of new buildings is inaccurate. New buildings’ carbon emissions are being underestimated by almost 31%, according to the report, as the current methodology does not take into account the embodied carbon of the structures that must be demolished to make way for the new buildings.

Secondly, the report urges that the industry needs to avoid new construction when possible and more frequently retrofit and refurbish existing structures to reduce emissions. As an example, the report found that replacing a Victorian terrace with a similarly proportioned house creates as much as 13 times more embodied carbon than refurbishing the same terrace, thereby giving greater credence to the adage that the greenest building is the one that already exists.

To read more about the report, see Building Design’s article here.

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