Monday, 23 November 2009


A building’s life finishes with the final node, demolition. Sometimes it’s required out of necessity, other times it’s own design can be the defining factor. Except now our relationship towards construction and building has shifted, no longer can opinion determine a building's outcome, the worlds fascination with Carbon emissions has resulted in what perhaps may be a flawed system.

The attraction of constructing new “green” buildings in replace of old “inefficient” ones appears so fruitful as they are carbon neutral, a term that portrays a false vision. Carbon neutral buildings only offset the carbon they produce at the present time and during construction, however what about neighboring buildings that may not be as efficient, or what about the past 500 years of carbon emissions. Buildings don’t need to be “Carbon Neutral”, they need to be “Negative Carbon”.

As it stands by 2019 all new buildings have to be Carbon Neutral, except what about existing buildings? Surely our approach to the Carbon problem is somewhat selfish, only thinking about sole dwellings. Countries should perhaps devise new strategies that offset villages, or even cities, doing so would require less construction over the whole city. If one tower offsets a city, then the need for new builds can diminish, and in it’s place “Adaption”.

Adapting existing architecture forces a building to evolve to the current standards, vast amount of facades systems exist all over the world that can simply latch on to the external skins of buildings, reducing carbon emissions and providing new properties to the users that reside inside the structure. Algae is becoming ever so popular in modern architectural technology, and the systems currently devised can easily fuse with old buildings.

As it stands in Manchester 2 major demolitions are currently underway, the Refectory within the University of Manchester Campus, and St Mary’s Hospital. These two builds from the 2nd half of the 20th Century are the result of new builds replacing them. What is most interesting is the simplicity of their designs, especially the large tower attached to the Refectory. If one was to merely gut the building it could quite easily be developed into a much more Carbon Efficient building without the need for demolition and then reconstructing.

Schemes already exist of renovating buildings form the early 1900’s, but why can’t schemes appear to save much newer buildings, much like in Sheffield with Park Hill. Maybe then we can begin to see the importance and impact that existing buildings have on our countries carbon emissions.

Images Copyright of Jack Penford Baker


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