Demolish or refurbish – Environmental benefits of housing conservation

Grace Ding


Climate change and energy efficiency are some of the most pressing issues facing China today. With its economic growth since 1978, the government has struggled to contain environmental damages and social unrest related to the economy’s rapid transformation. With the rapid growth in population and urbanization the demand for housing has escalated and traditional housing has been under threat of demolition to make way for new construction. Traditional housing is generally considered wasteful in its use of land and/or energy, and is often demolished for more intensive and more energy-efficient housing, despite the resulting loss of embodied energy and urban amenity. A research project was undertaken to study the environmental performance of traditional housing in Hangzhou. The project looks into analyzing and comparing embodied energy and CO2 for seven dwellings. In addition indoor climate data were recorded and collected in the form of hourly temperature and humidity readings for one year in six local houses and in a modern unit as a control for one year. The research results reveal that there is little difference in environmental performance between traditional and conventional modern construction and the value of conservation rather than demolition as a strategic development for the construction industry.


Embodied energy, CO2 emission, Historic buildings, Indoor climate

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