New Buildings vs Retrofit

Considering ’embedded’ carbon and energy

Any new building takes hundreds of hours of man power and a lot of effort and hassle to construct so why pull down old ones to meet new demands? Existing buildings have large so-called embedded footprints in terms of the energy and carbon that went into their construction.  Just think of the transport to get the materials to site, furnaces running to create the steel structures and the effort that went into the on-site construction, let alone the cost of them.  It therefore makes sense to maximise their use and efficiency, whenever possible rather than demolishing them and putting up new structures.

‘Retrofitting’ – improving the efficiency of existing buildings – is an efficient way of prolonging their life while reducing energy consumption and running costs.

New buildings

If a new building is definitely required on the farm, consider these factors:

  1. The construction materials and embodied energy contained in them, for example a new shed could contain galvanised steel and concrete; very energy intensive to produce.
  2. The materials and construction waste from the old building (if replacing an existing structure) – recycling as much of the waste as possible will save material and expensive landfill costs.
  3. Building orientation and shading; by positioning any building correctly, ‘solar gain’ can be maximised, meaning natural light provides a large proportion of the lighting requirements, and there is the potential for solar PV modules to be positioned to maximise efficiency.
  4. Innovative new technology which will bring down running costs; such as running piping underneath manure and cost sheds to more efficiently heat the space.

Do you have any alternatives to constructing new buildings?  For example can existing buildings be adapted to take on new functions, and will the function itself still be necessary in the near future?

If you are considering a new build, why not have a look at the BREEAM website, which certifies buildings that hit certain sustainability criteria. Be inspired by reading their case study of sustainable building construction of the Bombay Sapphire Distillery Process buildings in Hampshire!