A campaign by the Architects' Journal is urging property owners not to demolish old buildings due to excessive carbon emissions from creating the steel, cement and bricks for new buildings.
Backed by 14 Stirling Prize winners, architects say owners should be given incentives by the government to upgrade old buildings, rather than knocking them down.
Concrete is the most widely used man-made material in existence and cement, its key ingredient, has a massive carbon footprint.
It was previously argued that demolishing an old energy-consuming building and constructing a well-insulated replacement was better for the climate. This is now accepted as wrong due to the amount of carbon emitted during the construction of the new building.
The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has estimated that 35 per cent of the lifecycle carbon from a typical office development is emitted before the building is even opened. It says the figure for residential premises is 51 per cent. It's asking that the government change the VAT rules which can make it cheaper to rebuild than to refurbish a standing building.
Architects' Journal managing editor, Will Hurst, said: 'This staggering fact has only been properly grasped in the construction industry relatively recently. We’ve got to stop mindlessly pulling buildings down.
'It's crazy that the government actually incentivises practices that create more carbon emissions. Also, if you avoid demolition you make carbon savings right now, which we really need.
He continued: 'In the past the government argued that the EU would forbid zero VAT on renovation – but they can't use that excuse now.'
British Property Federation's Alex Green said that the different VAT level is the key factor in determining whether a building is demolished or saved for a new purpose.
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