Refurbishing Buildings to curb carbon emissions

26 September 2021

Top engineers urge change by government.

Construction material manufacture (Steel, Bricks, Cement) creates vast amounts of CO2. Cement alone causes circa 8% of global emissions.

A new report  Decarbonising construction: building a new net zero industry  by the Royal Academy of Engineering, proposes that the construction sector should where possible re-use buildings, employ more recycled material, and use machinery powered by clean fuels.

The extent of "embodied emissions", which is the CO2 emitted when buildings and materials are made is not fully recognised, compared with the emissions from sources like carbon from aircraft, vehicles and gas boilers.

New ways of thinking is needed whilst planning new homes, factories, roads and bridges.

The report authors highlight that one of our biggest failure is that we build buildings, then we knock them down and throw them away.  The massive programmes for transport £27Nn for road building and HS2 are also challenged due to the CO2 impact they will have.

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%.

The report has been welcomed by the Architects' Journal, which has been campaigning against any unnecessary demolition.

It wants the government to change the VAT rules which can make it cheaper to rebuild than to refurbish a standing building.

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