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Why refurbishment is the greenest way to go

Aurore Julien
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Aurore Julien, leader of Llewelyn Davies Yeang’s Eco System Design unit, hopes the UK will follow the example set by the US and refurbish, instead of building new

After just one month in command, the Obama administration has already received the thumbs up from the USGBC (US Green Building Council).  The recovery package proposed by the US government is rightly focused around the refurbishment of existing buildings, with billions of dollars dedicated to improvements in federal accommodation, schools, public housing, homes and training for green jobs. This makes a lot of sense and we, in the UK, should probably be considering a similar approach, focusing a little less on ‘eco-bling’ and a little more on the solutions that matter.

This is not to say that we should give up on renewable energies or other grey water systems altogether, as they have their own time and place. However, considering the current global recession, investment should surely be concentrated in the right areas. 

For example, revamping an existing loft with 170mm insulation can be up to 30 times more effective at saving carbon than PV¹, per pound invested. We know very well that our homes need better insulation, in particular in lesser wealthy households, with fuel poverty shamefully killing thousands of people every year – according to BEER² 23,900 for winter 2006/2007.

We must hope that Britain will follow the example set by President Obama. On Thursday the 12th of February the DECC (Department for Energy and Climate Change) revealed proposals in a consultation on its heat and energy efficiency strategy. The proposals are convincing, but Gordon Brown’s budget of £1bn for energy-saving initiatives might prove somewhat insufficient.


¹Using the numbers published by the Energy Saving Trust

²The UK Fuel Poverty Strategy, 6th Annual Progress Report 2008


Neither the AJ nor the author accept any responsibility for the views expressed in this column. Readers should seek their own professional advice

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Yes, or indeed follow the example of some of our enlightened neighbours in mainland Europe, who have had tax incentives and other finanicial structures and building regulations in place for decades encouraging landlords to thermally insulate and update their building stock.

    For example, 10-15 years ago Berlin was very busily adding insulation render systems (inward-opening tilt-and-turn) double glazing and energy efficient space and water heating boilers to existing built stock. It does however help if you have good solid building stock which has a reasonable shelf life in the first instance.

    From memory, Germany requires new housing to be designed for a minimum 80-year life as standard - something else that we might consider sensible for the environment, along with a great deal more that has been developed and proven on our doorstep.

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