The planet is warming at a frightening rate and we are still releasing greenhouse gases as if there were no consequences. As this article makes clear, a massive and little appreciated source of CO2 is cement. Governments have made a commitment to stop it. How is that to be achieved?
Every time a concrete building is pulled down and especially when it is replaced with another, a massive carbon dioxide store is wiped out and consigned to landfill and another huge dose of carbon dioxide is pumped into the atmosphere.
Neglected, underused, ill-adapted and poorly maintained 20th century buildings are routinely demolished to feed the vanity and ambitions of politicians, corporations and institutions. But look how short this cycle has become! We have become accustomed to dispensing with “hideous” 1960s buildings only to replace them with buildings that will, undoubtedly, attract the same critical acclaim in a generation or so from now.
The embodied energy in a building is a crucial conservation issue, or it should be. When the maintenance of such buildings is neglected or the adaptation options ignored in favour of a glossy new replacement, the environmental damage is much greater than is generally appreciated.
It is even more depressing to discover that not a few of the buildings procured by various flavours of Design and Build in the past couple of decades are extremely badly built. We have seen and been involved in rectification projects that beggar belief.
We only have one planet. Can we really afford to continue to fill the oceans with plastic, cut down the rainforests and squander resources on vanity building projects?
An equation that just doesn’t add up
Think about it: it doesn’t help the planet to pull a building down and replaced it with a better insulated one if the embodied energy expended is vastly greater than the energy that will ever be saved.
Maintain, adapt, reuse.