Over recent years, there has been an increase in the amount of refurb work that avoids demolition. This is especially true for London, where there is a high demand for commercial space and a desire from investors to extend a lettable area of an existing structure. There are many reasons why refurb work and retaining structural elements is becoming more popular.
3 influential factors driving refurbishment methodology
- Speed of construction methodology
Structural modification work on a building is quicker and more cost-effective than completely demolishing a building and starting again. This also means that the building will be habitable sooner, which is essential in prime real estate areas such as London.
- Fewer construction materials
Retaining elements of the existing structure means that there is less expenditure on procuring new materials. In the last 2 years, the construction industry has seen materials shortages across almost every type of building material. Although, the availability issues seem to have stabilised, challenges still remain due to the increasing costs. Therefore, retaining existing structural elements is an important consideration when looking to make projects more cost-effective.
The focus of sustainability in the granting of planning permission, makes redevelopment more enticing to developers. It’s also better for considerate contractors who want to add more social value to their projects.
- Town plans
In April 2022, we saw the UK housing secretary, Michael Gove, banning the demolition of buildings in London. Before he was sacked, Gove managed to stop the work on M&S Oxford Street, which was criticised for wasting embodied carbon of the existing building.
Despite the London town plan changing to allow demolition again, it did push developers towards finding new ways to remodel and reuse parts of a building. The Rowe is a fantastic example of how an existing structure was reimagined, remodelled and doubled in size, all whilst carrying out the work inside the footprint of the building.
- Listed structures
Preserving the character and charm of a building adds to its appeal. It’s important to consider the area’s typography, especially when seeking planning approval. This is especially true when modifications are required to a building which has historical importance. For example, the Halifax Bus Station case study shows how the new structure was built, whilst preserving some historically important structures.
The need to reduce embodied carbon has propelled the desire to refurbish buildings rather than demolish them.
- Carbon net zero target
Working towards net zero by 2030 makes carbon reduction an important consideration. Retaining of all or part of the existing structure can create significant carbon efficiencies. Whereas, demolishing the whole building unnecessarily can be deemed as wasting the existing building’s embodied carbon.
- Reducing waste
Many materials can’t be recycled and as the UK urbanises at a pace, buildings are rising and falling in as little as 30 years.
Over the next 40 years the world is expected to build 230 billion square metres in new construction, adding the equivalent of Paris to the planet every single week. Therefore, in addition to refurb projects, there is an emerging trend in designing for deconstruction.
Refurbishing and extending buildings
The reconstruction of existing structures is mainly down to economic and environmental factors. In London, The Rowe was a complex refurbishment project and the development was retrofitted with a 6 storey steel extension.
This refurb project was confined to the building’s footprint, in the busy Whitechapel area. The concrete building was remodelled and the façade was preserved. Elland Steel carefully removed the façade retention system and added 6 new floors of steel. Read more about the Rowe refurbishment
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