Concrete buildings – study finds renovation to be more sustainable

A lifecycle assessment of different building types shows greater sustainability when renovating existing buildings. The Greenland study is valid for many other areas of the world – professor says.

According to the lifecycle assessment (LCA) of different building types in Greenland, renovating existing concrete buildings is the most sustainable solution.

Renovation brings the best performance

The assessment shows that renovation in which the load-bearing structure is recycled is more sustainable than new builds, regardless of building type. The researchers have compared renovation with three different types of new builds: a structure made of concrete and inorganic building materials, a mixed structure with concrete and wood, and a 100% wood structure in CLT (cross-laminated timber). – writes.

The researchers have examined aspects such as carbon emissions, energy consumption, transportation of building materials, the potential for renewal, and harmful impacts on the environment. The result shows that renovation brings the best performance on all environmental parameters.

Transportation has very little effect

There is a great wish in Greenland to increase consumption of local building materials at the expense of imported materials. However, as Greenland has few resources concrete has been regarded as the most local building material due to its high contents of stone and gravel.

If you look at the total amount of imported materials for a building project and their environmental impact, there are no environmental benefits from new builds made of concrete. The life cycle assessment shows that transportation of building materials means relatively little in the accounts.

In Greenland or anywhere else

“As transportation is of relatively little significance in the overall picture, the point is probably also applicable elsewhere. It’s generally an important sustainability parameter to renovate rather than construct new buildings, regardless of whether this is in Greenland, in Denmark, or in many other places in the world,” – says Tove Lading.

Cement is the weakest link

According to the expert, the most obvious solution is to recycle concrete structures, thus reducing the need for new cement, since the production of cement is a major factor in the carbon emissions of the building sector.

The findings of the assessment go against the current practice in Greenland, where dilapidated buildings are generally demolished and replaced with new builds. However, the conclusions drawn in the analysis have general validity and are not limited to the building sector in Greenland.



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