Buildings must be recycled and not demolished, urges Historic England

Historic England is calling for existing buildings to be reused and recycled rather than demolished and built from scratch in order to save CO2 emissions. 

The building and construction industry is responsible for 42% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions and with the government pledging to build ‘at least’ one million new homes in the next five years, this is an industry that needs to be carefully considered if the UK is going to reach the target of net-zero emissions by 2050.

According to a report published today (February 26) by Historic England, upgrading existing buildings could make substantial energy savings because the CO2 emissions that are already embodied within the existing building would not be lost through demolition.

A lot of attention is being paid to reducing daily emissions generated from heating and powering buildings, but according to the authors of the report, the carbon savings from reusing buildings has been largely overlooked.

Building a new build the size of a traditional Victorian terrace produces around 13 times more carbon than refurbishing an existing building of the same since.

According to the report, if we responsibly refurbished 50% of all pre-1919 residential buildings between 2021 and 2031, carbon emissions would be reduced by 39.6 million tonnes by 2050.

Duncan Wilson, Historic England’s chief executive said: ‘Recycling plastic bottles is a normal part of our lives, but reusing our exiting historic buildings would be a much more powerful way to improve our environmental impact.

‘Despite this, reusable buildings are demolished every year and new buildings, which require a huge amount of carbon to build and replace them.’

Peter Ainsworth, chair of the Heritage Alliance said: ‘Every year historic buildings are demolished to make way for new buildings; it is crucial that owners and developers are encouraged to recycle, maintain and repair our existing housing stock to cut carbon emissions and help us reach our net-zero target by 2050.’

Photo Credit – Historic England

Pippa Neill

Pippa Neill

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