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Anti-demolition campaigners challenge construction's 'dirty secret'

May 27 2021

Anti-demolition campaigners challenge construction's 'dirty secret'

A campaign demanding greater re-use of existing buildings over new build has been given fresh impetus by the Architect's Journal which has published a three-point plan to rebalance construction in favour of refurbishment.

Fronted by TV presenter George Clarke RetroFirst advocates that the VAT on refurbishment, repair and maintenance be slashed from 20% to 5% or less and demands a shake-up of procurement rules to ensure all publicly funded projects look to retrofit solutions in the first instance.

The lobby group, backed by the RIBA, Historic Environment Scotland and Edinburgh World Heritage among many others, will also push for policy change to promote the reuse of existing buildings to utilise their embodied energy and materials.

Explaining the pressing need for action AJ managing editor Will Hurst said: “Demolition is the construction industry’s dirty secret. Despite all the declarations of climate emergency and talk of a green recovery, it is propped up by outdated rules and taxes and great swathes of our towns and cities are currently earmarked for destruction.

“If the government means to ‘Build Back Better’ then it must recognise that conservation of buildings is now a climate issue and introduce reforms to ensure that bulldozing buildings is an absolute last resort.”

Around 50,000 buildings fall to the wrecking ball every year in the UK, exacerbating the carbon consequences for an industry that accounts for 10% of UK emissions and 66% of all waste. This is exacerbated by a tax system that rewards new build housing with a 0% VAT rate while refurbishment is penalised with a 20% rate.

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