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22 April 2020
The greenest building is the one that already exists

TBC.London’s developer, FORE Partnership, is among the first developers to join a rapidly growing list of #RetroFirst backers calling on the industry and government to prioritise retrofit over demolition and rebuild. The campaign, launched by the Architects’ Journal, now boasts more than 200 signatories including TBC.London architects Stiff + Trevillion.

While the UK built environment sector has much to be proud of, it still produces around 40% of the UK’s total carbon emissions. Shockingly, we lose more than 50,000 buildings through demolition every year, and of the 200 million tonnes of waste generated in Britain annually, 63% is construction debris. It can’t carry on this way.

If there’s one substantial thing the industry can do to help mitigate the climate crisis, it is to work with what has already built. The #RetroFirst campaign aims to break down barriers to doing so through greater awareness, and positive changes to tax, policy and procurement.

Rather than unnecessarily and wastefully demolishing Tower Bridge Court, we are refurbishing the existing building and rebuilding it in a way that allows it to be net-zero carbon in operation.

In keeping the existing structure and reusing the embodied carbon in the frame, we are able to reduce the carbon footprint of the building by more than 50% over its life. We have also reduced the construction time by 25% or more, and saved on costs. There is no need for complex demolition, less materials have to be put back into the building, and there is much less disruption to our neighbours. Overall, there is a substantial de-risking of the project.

Basil Demeroutis, Managing Partner of FORE Partnership, said: “As an industry we are too quick to start knocking things down when this may be totally unnecessary. We must support the aims of the RetroFirst campaign and look for opportunities to refurbish and transform obsolete buildings into beautifully designed spaces, spaces that are sympathetic to their context and inclusive of their communities. We are committing to retain the embodied carbon wherever possible and focus on transforming these buildings into ultra-sustainable, high-spec workspaces that encourage creativity, collaboration, and a sense of community.”

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