Demolition or Refurbishment – Which is Best?
When deciding whether to refurbish or demolish a building, a technical assessment must be made to determine which option is best suited for the structure.
This decision can be based on:
- Energy impact of the building
Even though the process of demolishing and constructing a structure can generally take longer, if the building is unstable and needs to be structurally altered then demolition and new build would be a better option, as refurbishing such a building would be very time consuming and costly.
In some cases, the expense of ongoing maintenance makes demolition the most logical solution for certain buildings. However, some believe that the current VAT rules are “undermining sustainable development by rewarding developers who demolish buildings and penalising those who refurbish.”
A figure at the forefront of this belief in the UK is Duncan Baker-Brown who created an award-winning building made entirely of recycled materials which is the first permanent public building of its kind in Europe.
The materials include:
- 20,000 toothbrushes
- 2 tonnes of denim jeans
- 4,000 DVD cases
- 2,000 floppy discs
- 2,00 used carpet tiles
- Construction waste
- Surplus wood and bricks
Mr Baker-Brown is asking politicians to implement an awards system that encourages green retrofit projects in a bid to reduce CO2 emissions and combat climate change.
According to Baker-Brown, “there is no such thing as waste, just stuff in the wrong place”, so he hopes to encourage the kind of recycling and reuse of materials that he applied to his Waste House project. Baker-Brown also states that: “A green retrofit will probably reduce the carbon footprint of a formerly gas-guzzling home by 60-80 per cent.
But most clients, however well off, will baulk at handing over say £350,000 in VAT on a £1.75million project when, amazingly, the alternative is to completely demolish the existing property for as little as £7,500, and then build a completely new property with VAT zero rated, therefore saving over £300,000.”
With this in mind, he has proposed a change in VAT rules so they encourage new build and renovation projects to support green retrofits.
However, there are certain cases where demolition is the only option for dangerous or unsightly buildings; an example of which was Greyfriars bus station in Northampton which was demolished in March following safety concerns.
Dubbed the ‘mouth of hell’ by Grand Designs presenter Kevin McCloud and ‘infamously ugly’ by the Lonely Planet guide, the safety of the bus station was put under scrutiny after two people died after being hit by buses inside the station.
It also faced criticism a year after it opened after formations of mineral stalactites were discovered inside the building, thus putting the safety of the building in jeopardy.
Northampton Borough Council has stated that the structure was costing taxpayers £500,000 in repairs every year and would take almost £30 million to renovate, therefore, making demolition the most suitable option. It ensured the structure was dealt with safely while proving to be the most cost-effective solution to this unpleasant, hazardous building.
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