Refurbishment vs Demolition

Why refurbishment is always the better option than demolition.

Making the case for refurbishment

Research has shown that refurbishment of council estates is the best option when environmental and social factors are properly taken into account. Refurbishment can deliver significant improvements in energy, environmental and health performance, which can lead to costs savings and improved living standards for residents. It can have lower overall lifetime costs than redevelopment and can cause less disruption to communities.

Just Space and LTF commissioned the Engineering Exchange at UCL to review the technical evidence for demolition vs refurbishment of social housing. They produced a series of factsheets, videos and a peer-reviewed report, which you can explore below.

Demolition or Refurbishment
The Community's Perspective

Pat Turnbull, LTF member and council tenant who has experienced regeneration first hand, explains her engagement and the work done by UCL's Engineering Exchange.

Demolition - doubly wasteful.

The construction industry produces no less than 35-40 per cent of the UK’s total carbon emissions and 35 per cent of materials desposited as waste. Refurbishment avoids this waste and conserves the emissions embodied in the construction materials, the building process, as well as emissions produced from demolition.

Refurbishment - better environmentally & socially

The UCL has produced a detailed report outlining the merits of refurbishment versus demolition. The Mayor's new Estate Regeneration Guidance says that demolition should only be considered as a last resort and he recently introduced new Circular Economy Guidance. Case studies have been supported by a 'retrofit' campaign led by the Architects' Journal.

Economically - the business case.

Option appraisals often fail to take a number of crucial factors into account:

  • The financial cost of decanting the estate including buy-out costs of leaseholders.
  • The loss of rental income for the Council both in the short term and long term.
  • Increased temporary accommodation costs as a result of decanting tenants into existing stock.
Our template Residents' Charter sets out detailed requirements ensuring that theseconsiderations as well as environmental factors are taken into account from the outset.

UCL Engineering Exchange - research and factsheets

UCL Engineering UCL Urban Laboratory
Demolition or Refurbishment of Social Housing - a review of the evidence. Download
University College London Engineering Exchange
Embodied Carbon: Factsheet Download
University College London Engineering Exchange
Health & Well-being: Factsheet Download
University College London Engineering Exchange
Lifespans & Decisions: Factsheet Download
University College London Engineering Exchange
Policy Briefing: Making decisions on demolition or refurbishment of social housing Download
University College London Engineering Exchange
Refurbishment and Demoliton: Community Toolkit Download