Large swathes of buildings constructed in UK towns and cities during the sixties and seventies may need to be demolished to meet new carbon emission standards.
According to the British Property Federation, real estate is responsible for a huge 50 per cent of the country's current emissions.
But the government has had no strategy to date to deal with existing commercial properties - only new ones. It has introduced targets stipulating that all new commercial buildings must generate zero carbon emissions from 2018.
Paul Morrell, who was appointed as the government's chief construction adviser in November last year, has now been tasked with eradicating carbon from the building industry. The aim is to help the government hit its targets of cutting UK emissions by 80 per cent by 2050 based on 1990 levels.
To achieve this goal, Morrell told the Times newspaper that there may be no choice but to tear down many sixties and seventies-era buildings as it could simply prove impossible to refurbish them to a sufficiently high standard.
Morrell, who works for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, explained:
"In the sixties, everything was built cheaper, faster and nastier. If you're going to try to fix buildings, then really you won't have too many problems with anything built earlier than the fifties or after the eighties."
The buildings posing the most difficulties, however, were those that were "semi-industrialised, highly inefficient, badly insulated and so ugly" that they were not worth refurbishing, he added. But it could be possible to rescue some better-constructed ones by replacing their roofs, for example.
Problem cities likely to undergo such an eco-makeover include Newcastle, Slough and Aylesbury.
Listed buildings are likely to remain exempt from carbon targets. Modern refurbishment measures such as installing plastic windows and wall insulation were not suitable for many historic buildings as they did not allow them to breathe and increased the risk of mould or rot, according to English Heritage. Other measures such as introducing more efficient boilers and loft insulation were fine, however.
Public policy think-tank Policy Exchange estimates that the UK would need to spend about £400bn on new and refurbished infrastructure by 2020 to address historic underinvestment and kick-start a transition to a low-carbon economy.
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