Rebuild vs Refurbishment?

15 November 2023

This framework for ‘New Construction Whole Life Cycle Carbon’ was presented by Rishika Shroff and Hesham Ahmad at sustainability consultancy Eight Versa in their article on The Rebuild vs. Refurbish Conundrum. As they point out, 85% of building stock in the UK was constructed before 1990s and a large number of these fall short on current energy performance standards. And that leaves the two choices they highlight:

  1. Demolish existing buildings and construct new high performing buildings
  2. Retrofit the existing poor performing buildings

The article was shared by Giovanna Jagger at the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI), as part of discussion about how the term retrofit means different things to different people. Same could still be said about smart buildings, but the way the term retrofit can be be confused with larger refurbishment projects is something that came up in the retrofit-themed panel discussion I moderated at the Smart Buildings Show last month (see here). This definition issue is also something I touched upon in my post about the Delivering Net Zero: Key Considerations for Commercial Retrofit report by the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC), e.g. the way they distinguish between Light and Deep Retrofit. And, so, it is interesting to see how the terms Retrofit and Refurbishment are used by Rishika and Hesham in their article without really distinguishing between the two terms. I hope to be discussing this ‘definition conundrum’ with Giovanna and ISG’s head of sustainability Anna Foden as part of a new podcast series that will also hopefully feed into a White Paper collaboration I will be announcing soon.

Definitions aside, how one makes a decision about rebuilding or refurbishment is an important retrofit consideration or whatever term beginning with R gets used to describe Regeneration or Repurposing of existing assets. The distinction between the Physical and Digital assets is an important part of that decision making, particularly when it comes to the low hanging fruit as part of drive towards net zero (see more on this here).

I mention this because if and how Life Cycle Value and Equipment Replacement Schedules form part of Asset Management was asked in the Q&A as part of the panel at Smart Buildings Show mentioned above. Rishika and Hesham don’t really touch upon technology beyond mentioning how air source heat pumps can help reduce operational emissions. However, I have shared their framework above and this Refurb vs Rebuild Comparison ‘Roadmap’ from them below as I hope it will be a catalysts for others that are more technology-focused to share their thinking and frameworks:

If you have anything along these lined please get in touch via LinkedIn or Contact Form.

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