Whole-Life Carbon – Fabric Retention

  • Issue Date: 18th April 2017
  • Publication: Building Magazine

In redevelopment or refurbishment, retaining elements of existing buildings offers significant environmental and financial benefits. Mirko Farnetani and Juan José Lafuente of Sturgis Carbon Profiling give examples to quantify these benefits and provide recommendations when considering retention versus new-build for future projects.

This research article demonstrates the huge potential benefits of retaining building elements. It includes case studies that show a variety of ways in which much of an existing building’s fabric could be retained while still redeveloping the building to current specifications and aesthetic requirements. Demolition of buildings should therefore be the last design option, especially when considering the embodied carbon and the financial costs of building anew.

However, we also need to project these benefits into the future, into the buildings and structures that we are currently designing. Are our current designs flexible enough to accommodate future changes? Are we limiting the future use of our buildings, reducing their lifespan with decisions targeting short-term benefits? Is this compromising the future value of our buildings? Circular economy principles, low-carbon thinking and design for climate change adaptation all aim to ensure our current designs are adaptable to future needs. The article demonstrates that considering retention as part of whole-life carbon thinking can encourage longer system (and sub-system) lifespans, more durable components and improved adaptability to meet the future requirements of buildings and cities. With intelligent design, building elements can be made suitable for multiple building lifecycles rather than only one.

You can read the article here by following the link to Building.co.uk.

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