With the spotlight on the climate crisis, facade companies in the UK are challenged with improving the energy performance of older buildings. One might think that this would be an excellent opportunity to demolish and rebuild using modern materials, but with construction timescales tightening and the urgent net-zero targets, is this always the best option?
The answer always depends from project to project. When dealing with a building that is structurally unsound, paired with poor energy performance that isn’t functional for modern uses, your facade installation company might tell you that knocking it down and starting over is the cheaper and efficient option. However, choosing to refurbish the building envelope can offer some key advantages over rebuilding.
Acquiring planning permission for refurbishment projects is often a simpler and quicker process when you are just looking to make alterations to an existing building. Rebuilds are also typically required to meet the same modern building requirements as a new build project, whilst there is a lot more flexibility with refurb projects. They can also be much less disruptive to the local area than demolishing – a key benefit in our increasingly busy urban areas.
Creating the structural elements of a building is typically the most expensive and time-consuming part of the build programme. If the core structure is sound, updating the facade is a quick and cost-effective way to transform the thermal, fire and acoustic performance and the overall look of the building, maximising the return on investment on the original structure and reducing the environmental impact of the project.
Environmental benefits are one of the most compelling arguments for refurbishment. It may not be possible to always bring older buildings up to match energy efficiency as those built today, it is not only the operational energy that occurs and needs to be taken into consideration. Embodied carbon is an overlooked value when calculating a building’s carbon footprint. It is mainly made up of the amount of carbon released whilst manufacturing, transporting and assembling the building materials, including extracting the raw material. This is staggering, particularly on commercial buildings.
Whilst it is not always possible, refurbishing an existing building’s facade is certainly worth exploring before plunging for demolishment. Continual advancements in material, aluminium accessories in the UK and system technology has helped to make this an even simpler option for architects looking to completely transform the way a building interacts with the wider world, from its energy and fire performance to its commercial value.