Alternatives to coming in like a wrecking ball
(Photo by Shreyas Shah on Unsplash)

Alternatives to coming in like a wrecking ball

When buildings are no longer fit for their original purpose, do they actually need to be demolished?

Summary: Supertech’s illegal twin towers in Noida Residents were demolished on August 28th following a Supreme Court ruling that the towers were constructed in violation of the UP Apartments Act 2010. Supertech believed that they had full approval in 2019 “strictly in accordance with the then prevailing byelaws.”

Why this is important: Securing the right approvals is obviously key in any construction but also careful thought about what we do with buildings once they have reached the end of their useful life - even if that comes before completion! - can have big implications for impact on the environment.

The big theme: The built environment is an important sustainability theme, both as an integral part of societal existence but also a major decarbonisation (40% of energy-related GHG emissions) and resource consumption problem (40% of global raw materials) that needs investor attention. Including residential and commercial buildings, communal areas such as parks, and supporting infrastructure such as energy networks, mobility, and water supply, it can have significant impacts on our health, well-being and equity & inclusion.

The details

Why this is important

Yes, we loved the photo, and buildings being demolished make for dramatic TV, but the story raised an important question for us - why do we seem to so willingly accept buildings being demolished to be replaced by “something more modern”, rather than pushing harder for refurbishment. After our decades working in the City of London, it can sometimes feel as if most of the city has been demolished and then rebuilt (we know that’s not true by the way). As engineers we get that building codes and planning rules are really important, but ultimately it's the tenant that decides. Are we missing a trick by demanding energy efficient buildings, as defined by what we need to spend to use them in comfort, rather than the whole life emissions?

The built environment is an important area of focus for sustainability. It represents over one third of global final energy use, generates nearly 40% of energy-related GHG emissions (which in themselves are 75.6% of total GHG emissions) and consumes 40% of global raw materials.

It is predicted that by 2050 more than two-thirds of the world population will live in urban areas putting upward pressure on those built environment numbers, all else being equal.

Embodied carbon contributes about 8-10% of global emissions compared with the aviation industry which contributes roughly 2-3%.

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