Demolishing buildings that have been up for 20 years is the biggest waste of resources, says Peter Rogers
Zero carbon is not achievable at the moment and we are distorting what we are doing for it. Zero carbon is being achieved by off-setting, which is a cop-out.
It is the law of unintended consequences: like bonuses, targets distort. People will work to get the bonus, even if they have to cheat.
The counter to this is that you do need targets because you have got to measure yourself. Otherwise you do not know if you are achieving anything. So I just think you have to be careful that the target does not become a goal in itself.
It is a bit like recycling. I have never really liked recycling because what you are doing is downgrading good materials. We should try desperately not to need to recycle and not to waste. So, while of course recycling is a good thing, we need to be careful that it does not overtake the actual end goal – which is not to waste materials.
The same applies to zero carbon. My first adage is that the most effective carbon use is in old Victorian and Georgian houses which we have all around the country, because they have been there for many decades – perhaps hundreds of years. Here we are demolishing buildings that have been up for only 20 or 30 years – that is a real waste of carbon.
It is a waste of all resources, even if you could do it to zero-carbon criteria. So designing buildings that last, that are flexible enough to be here in a hundred years – that is a good use of carbon. If we have got to use it, don’t waste it.
Peter Rogers is an engineer and property developer
Ideas for positive change
This is part of our Countdown to Cop26 coverage in the lead up to the world climate conference in Glasgow in November. We will be publishing more big ideas about ways to tackle the climate emergency over the coming weeks and you can find more here