Refurbish or replace?

CO2 emissions

Many people think that demolishing existing buildings to replace them with new buildings contributes to an overall reduction in CO2 emissions.

The study New tricks with old bricks: How reusing old buildings can cut carbon emissions (pdf file) compared the CO2 emitted in building new homes with creating new homes through refurbishing old properties. It concluded that refurbishing existing homes and converting empty property into new homes can yield CO2 reductions by minimizing emissions from ‘embodied energy’ consumed during manufacture and transport of materials and components, compared with those incurred in new-build. (Empty Homes Agency 2008)

The Climate Change Act 2008 set a legally binding target for reducing UK CO2 emissions by 80% by 2050, compared to 1990 levels.

Estimates vary, but around 80% of buildings that will be standing in 2050 already exist, therefore a substantial programme to upgrade these buildings is required.


Many old buildings demonstrate ‘loose fit’ - the ability to be adapted and used in a new way.

A quick guide to refurbishment can be found on the GreenSpec website.

See also the Sustainable Energy Academy's ‘Old Home SuperHome’ programme.