The Leading News & Information Service For The Facilities, Workplace & Built Environment Community

Retrofitting and Residential Conversion to Save Carbon

Retrofitting and Residential Conversion to Save Carbon
03 September 2020 | Updated 09 September 2020
 

Could carbon emissions be reduced by upgrading older buildings instead of knocking them down?

According to REHAU, building solutions specialists, building designers and specifiers should consider retrofitting solutions to improve overall sustainability.

The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) estimates that a sizeable proportion of a building’s lifecycle carbon is emitted during construction – 35 per cent and 51 per cent for office and residential properties respectively. 

These findings have prompted campaigns for developers to prioritise the restoration of older properties over demolishing and replacing them at high carbon costs.

 

“The carbon costs associated with their construction means new buildings may not pay back their carbon debt for decades. As such, retrofitting should become a priority for specifiers and developers looking to improve the sustainability of their operations, especially as lowering carbon emissions grows in importance in the run-up to 2050.”

–Steve Richmond

Head of Marketing and Technical, REHAU Building Solutions 

 

What About Converting to Residential use?

 

According to a report on Canadian news website The Globe and Mail, repurposing properties to residential conversions is not only financially viable but an environmentally friendly choice too.

The article refers to a project by Strategic Group, who planned residential conversions of four of its office properties in 2017 after office demand fell in the province of Alberta.  

The company’s CEO, Riaz Mamdani told The Globe and Mail: “It created an opportunity to think a bit differently.

“It’s certainly environmentally better. We have essentially changed 500,000 square feet of useless office space into places where people live and we’ve saved 50,000 tonnes of demolition material compared to tearing the buildings down and building new.

“With a creative approach, we will have full occupancy earlier than waiting a dozen years for an office market recovery.”

 

Framework for Commercial to Residential Conversions

 

The Gensler Research Institute has built a framework for converting underperforming office buildings to residential use.

Using Washington D.C.’s central business district as an example, Gensler categorised each office property according to five archetypes: wedge, cube, light or L-shaped, blinder, and heavy or slight slab. They then mapped out the degree to which each archetype is fit for residential conversion. 

Examples of parameters that might suggest conversion to residential property indicates a better return on investment includes high cultural or heritage value, desirable location,  a large floor plate, a high number of south-facing windows, and adequate parking facilities.

 

Opting for New-Builds Can Be Damaging

 

According to REHAU, the viability of this upgrade-centric approach is very much dependent on support from the building services sector:

“The government committing the country to net zero emissions by 2050 has made improving sustainability a key concern across all sectors, including construction,” says Steve Richmond, Head of Marketing and Technical at REHAU Building Solutions. 

“With that in mind, these RICS figures show just how damaging it can be to opt for new-builds over renovating older properties, especially at a time when we should be reducing emissions.

“While building services suppliers should incorporate retrofit capabilities into their product designs as standard, it is now clearer than ever that this consideration should become a necessity. These solutions will be vital to improving the efficiency of older buildings in line with modern standards while negating the carbon costs associated with creating the materials required to build a new property in their place.

“The carbon costs associated with their construction means new buildings may not pay back their carbon debt for decades. As such, retrofitting should become a priority for specifiers and developers looking to improve the sustainability of their operations, especially as lowering carbon emissions grows in importance in the run-up to 2050.”

Picture: A photograph of a large building being demolished

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 03 September 2020

Share



Related Articles

Consultation for Construction Carbon Reporting Rules Published

The world’s first international standard for carbon reporting across all areas of construction has had its reporting standards published for...

 Read Full Article
Sustainable Deliveries at 22 Bishopsgate to Lower City Emissions

A sustainable delivery system at 22 Bishopsgate is set to reduce the number of weekly vehicle trips to the building from 1,300 to just 50. AXA IM Alts, developer of...

 Read Full Article
RICS Suppression Scandal an Accident Waiting to Happen, Says QC

The governance architecture of RICS has been described as harbouring "an accident waiting to happen" and of burying bad news until a solution was...

 Read Full Article
RICS Survey Points to FM Job Opportunities

The latest survey from RICS points to further job opportunities across the sector as more companies increase their focus on FM services, especially in...

 Read Full Article
What Is the Aim of COP26?

The UK will host COP26 in Glasgow on 31 October – 12 November 2021. The summit will bring parties together to accelerate action towards the goals of the...

 Read Full Article
Sodexo Launches 2021 Social Impact Pledge

Sodexo UK & Ireland has announced its commitment to a series of pledges forming its ethical manifesto for leading the way to improve quality of life for society and...

 Read Full Article
The UK’s Hydrogen Economy – Industry Reactions

The UK’s first-ever hydrogen strategy launched this week, defining the energy source as critical in the country’s target of net-zero emissions by 2050. The...

 Read Full Article
What's The Difference Between Net-Zero Carbon and Carbon Neutral?

Net-zero carbon and carbon neutral are terms that are often used interchangeably, but how do they differ? Dr Torill Bigg, a Chartered Engineer with over 20 years of...

 Read Full Article
AI Predicts Building Energy Rates in Less Than A Second

An artificial intelligence system that can predict building emissions rates almost instantly has been created. Current methods can take days to produce building...

 Read Full Article
UhUb Partners with Planet Mark

UhUb, the provider of Education Technology for the cleaning sector, has partnered with Planet Mark, a sustainability certification for every type of...

 Read Full Article