Sheffield university academics argue more buildings should be renovated to aid post Covid-19 recovery

Experts at The University of Sheffield say it’s ‘essential’ to reuse more materials and renovate existing buildings rather than constructing new ones to achieve a low carbon recovery from Covid-19.

Tuesday, 9th June 2020, 1:30 pm
Updated Tuesday, 9th June 2020, 1:31 pm

Researchers from the University of Sheffield have warned that more materials must be reused and existing buildings need to be renovated, instead of pulled down to make room for new ones – if the UK is to make a low carbon recovery from the coronavirus crisis.

It’s after engineers in University’s Urban Flows Observatory became concerned that the UK’s current construction practices are unsustainable, with the built environment emitting up to 40 per cent of the UK’s carbon emissions and using 60 per cent of materials.

In collaboration with infrastructure firm AECOM, researchers have developed a new tool to help buildings be designed and constructed more sustainably.

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Sheffield academics are calling for buildings to be renovated rather than torn down to aid post coronavirus recovery.

The practical design tool called ‘Regenerate’, draws on circular economy principles and aims to eliminate waste, while reusing resources in order to reduce carbon emissions.

It aims to encourage the design of adaptable, deconstructable buildings using pre-existing resources and materials.

The framework consists of a series of Circularity Criteria (CCs), which are split into four categories: design for adaptability, design for deconstruction, circular materials, and resource efficiency.

These criteria are then applied to the core building layers: site, structure, skin, services and space, which can be used for all building types such as retrofits and new builds.

Dr Danielle Densley Tingley from the University’s Department of Civil and Structural Engineering, who led the design of the tool said: “If the UK is to make a low carbon recovery post-Covid-19, then it’s essential that we implement more sustainable practices in our construction industry.

“Shifts to circular practices such as increased building retention rather than demolition, or designing new buildings for adaptation would enable building life extension and make positive steps to reduce material consumption and carbon emissions.

“We hope the tool will be widely used in the construction industry so that designers can continually assess just how circular their buildings are, from conception to completion.

“And whether the building can be sustainably repurposed for future generations.”

The Regenerate tool, which was funded by the University of Sheffield’s EPSRC Impact Accelerator Account, has been developed by Dr Danielle Densley Tingley, Will Mihkelson and Charles Gillott, in collaboration with David Cheshire from AECOM.

The University of Sheffield, which helped to test the tool in its design stage, claims they intended to incorporate the new framework into all future building projects.

Mark Holden, Head of Estates Development at the University of Sheffield, added: “I'm delighted that our project managers have supported colleagues in the testing of Regenerate.

“It has offered useful insights into one of our planned developments, where we were able to note recommendations and record findings.

“We now intend to use the tool on all new projects over £2 million.”