Last week we added a new project to our online portfolio, Windsor Avenue. This is one of the largest conversions of a complex church in Wales. I found it to be a beautiful example of sustainable reuse; using foundations from the existing building as the basis in which a new unique space can be created.
Buildings are one of the largest and most expensive products of human action, both economically and environmentally. Renovating an existing building helps to understand and preserve its history. The value obtained by creating new from old, in my opinion, is priceless.
Many old traditional buildings provide plenty of large open space with high ceilings, allowing for new innovative designs, whilst incorporating their original features. As a result, new contemporary living spaces are created with plenty of character and history to share.
How sustainable are old building renovations?
It is often said the greenest building is the one already built. Increasingly, research has supported this statement—the reuse and sustainable renovation of existing buildings can result in fewer adverse environmental impacts than sustainable, or green, new construction. Typically, older buildings are regarded as less energy-efficient than new, greener builds, creating the perception that they are obstacles to, not opportunities for, sustainable development. While it may be true that some existing buildings are less energy-efficient, particularly those built in times of relatively cheap energy, such as the 1960s to the 1980s, most often the opposite is true. (MERLINO, K. (2018). Page. 35-47).
With the growing concern of climate change, we have become increasingly aware and more educated on the impact that we have on the environment. As a result, we have changed the way in which we we behave and how we produce and consume in our society. Separating our general waste and the waste that can be recycled such as glass, paper and plastics is now standard in most households today. So why is it we seldom consider recycling our buildings? After all, they can often create the most incredible spaces.
The World Green Building Trends 2018 Smart Market Report reveals that 34% of firms reported that they face client demand for greener buildings. The demand is apparent and the buildings can be beautiful, so surely the construction industry should consider renovating more of them?
However, with green projects, comes an increase in cost and unfortunately, this often is not always budgeted for within construction plans.
I think many of us can confess that when we see old, derelict buildings, barely erect, we write them off for any potential they may possess. However, this needs to be the point in which we can take a step back to consider the prospective space it could provide for a new project. Many repurposed and renovated existing buildings have proven to be compelling examples of sustainable reuse; and we have the capacity to use these as a precedent for the future in the sustainable construction industry.
A converted fortress on the Suffolk coast – Photography: © Mark Watts for Unique Home Stays.
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