In most cases, refurbishing an old building is much more environmentally sustainable and cost effective than demolishing an existing one and constructing a new replacement on the same land. In addition to the carbon benefits, retaining a historic building can complement the aesthetics and cultural values of an area.
But creative adaption of an old building must mean making it more sustainable. Whilst it’s true that the greenest building is the one that already exists – new builds today are designed to be much more energy efficient than their predecessors. The refurbishment of an old building must ensure it is functionally fit for purpose and at the same time drive down energy use through passive measures and switch to technologies that support an all-electric building, eliminating the need to burn fossil fuels on site.
A successful deep retrofit project requires an informed client and an integrated and collaborative approach to design, operation and management, with interventions that bring the existing building back to life, sometimes for a completely new use.
Furthermore, understanding the embodied carbon impact and the benefits of incorporating a circular economy in retrofit projects can help inform fundamental decisions about building form and fit-out.
In our latest report we explore the different methods that can be embedded within a project to make an old building carbon-neutral, and showcase some project examples where these sustainable design and construction techniques have been applied.
All in all, we suggest 17 steps to creating a carbon neutral building: