A constructive dilemma: new building or renovation?

The energy crisis and disruptions in supply chains have put building renovation at the centre of professionals’ attention. The trend has significant climate benefits, as renovations are not only more cost-effective and energy-efficient, but also more environmentally friendly than new constructions.

Globally, buildings are responsible for 38% of energy consumption and carbon emissions! This is the highest rate ever. As the world’s population continues to grow and more people move to cities, the demand for new buildings is also increasing.

At the same time, the greenhouse gas emissions of the construction of a modern building are roughly equivalent to the emissions of the energy use (heating, hot water, lighting and appliances) expected over 50 years!

How do these emissions add up?

For new construction, the largest share of emissions is related to building materials. An average 100 sqm house requires about 10-15 tonnes of concrete. And it is the production of cement, a component of concrete, that has the greatest environmental impact – it is responsible for around 8% of global CO2 emissions! If cement production were a single country, it would be the third largest emitter in the world after China and the USA!

Besides production, the costs and the environmental impact of transporting building materials are also important factors. As international studies show, heavy goods vehicles emit an average of 56.5 grams of CO2 per kilometre per 1 tonne of load. In terms of the environmental impact, there are hundreds of kilometres to be covered as raw materials must first be transported to processing plants where the building materials are manufactured, then delivered to distribution and sales depots and finally to the construction site.

Taking all the above into account, there is a professional consensus that renovating an existing building instead of building a new one will save up to 50-75% of CO2. The general truth is that renovating and restructuring buildings is always the greenest strategy.

Fit-out from a climate perspective

B+N Reference Zrt. also shares the strong professional opinion that building renovation should play an increasingly important role in the construction industry. The priority of the company’s fit-out department is to convert old buildings into zero-carbon buildings. A team of engineers constantly carry out extensive research and analysis on how to make a building environmentally friendly and cost-effective.

One of B+N’s most successful projects was the energy and aesthetic renovation of altogether 200 buildings of 17 hospitals in Budapest during 546 days and 2 million man-hours. By comparison, building this volume would have taken 8 years to complete. The costs of energy renovation in the hospitals involved will be recovered within 4-5 years and the institutes will save 30% of their costs on an annual basis.


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