The Empty Homes Agency in the UK claims that in order to reduce our carbon footprint "we ought to be focusing on making full use of refurbishing existing properties, rather than demolishing them to make way for new developments ".
In England there are 288,000 homes that have been empty for more than six months. The Empty Homes Agency thinks that if these homes were made use of, rather than knocked down to build new homes, that CO2 emissions could be reduced.
Conversely, it can be argued that since new homes are well insulated they can eventually make up for the large amount of emissions released during their initial construction because of their overall lower energy costs. But it can take several decades - in most cases, more than 50 years - for the figures to eventually balance out. The Empty Homes Agency claim that although new-builds can last for more than 50 years, their quality can 'sometimes be poor' and that it is likely that a new-build house will need refurbishing once it gets to that age.
From this I take that the emphasis in home-building in the UK should be two-fold:
- The regeneration of empty homes and the integration of facilities to enable energy-efficient living in them;
- Where new homes are built, these should be energy-efficient (ideally carbon-neutral!) and with a very long life expectancy.
Perhaps there are some lessons learned here for corporate construction... maybe more emphasis should be put on regenerating / refurbishing office buildings and equipping them with energy-efficient technology rather than building from new? As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts.