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Cost comparison between renovation & new built

In building new or renovating an old building, costs are usually the decisive point, but costs for whom?

Here some considerations about it:

(picture: some of our tests in cost effective renovation of saunas in Finland and testing tiny homes in containers at Hyrsylän Koulu and Gamified Cohousing)

Costs for individuals: We need to break down into costs on immediate terms and on the long run:

In the short term it's cheaper to build new: construction legislation has been getting tighter for decades for the purpose of assuring the well-being of the inhabitants. It is a trial and error approach backed mostly by observation, as for example in fire safety (amounts of exits, distances, etc) based mostly on observation of accidents occured (digital modelling of crowd behaviour is still very expensive). But with increasing legislation we also get less flexibility in adapting older buildings to modern needs. For example almost all old staircases don’t assure a proper escape from fire. Renovating these would bring high costs as it would require special custom made solutions.

In the long run it’s better to renovate: demolishing all brings a lack of identity on your city and building, this changes the behaviour of people in it and communities around it. Also demolishing an old building decreases its monetary value on the long run, as usual new materials decay faster than older ones. The feeling of belonging to a place or group is an essential feature of humans. Take the plattenbau buildings from the soviet times, or the industrialization of housing by the bauhaus movement, both stripped away ornamentation from buildings for the sake of better wider accessible housing for a growing population. These buildings are most of them worthles in comparision with historical ones. Renovating increases the value of your property and of the community.

Costs for the environment: renovate!

Numbers are disputed but it is often reported that the construction industry accounts for almost half of all CO2 emissions worldwide. This is twice as much as the transportation industry. Renovating allocates far less raw material and creates far less waste. In large construction sites for new buildings as for example shopping centers, waste is sistemic. It is not even the packaging or the transportation so much as it is the waste from efficiency problems. For example, if you have one thousand new windows to be delivered on day X to be mounted into the walls and the walls are not ready on time of the delivery, moving and storing these is sometimes more costly than to throw all the new windows away and make a complete new order. This happens very often!

Costs for the community: better to renovate!

Building new is cheaper for most of the time indeed for your wallet: you know how much materials and what sizes you need to order and when you will build. It is also faster as it uses more standard ways, using more machinery than people. Renovation takes more time from the worker and more specialized craftsmanship. But seeing it from the society perspective this is the good side. The local industries benefit much more from renovation as it will need to employ more people and less machines. Usually you choose local people, as they charge less for travel!

Costs for capitalism: build new.

Cities are now the biggest responsibles for the absorption of the production surplus. Meaning, if we do not consume, the economy stops and we really do not know what to do if the economy stops. Capitalism benefits from renovation as it too is consuming products and labour but the scale of investment in new buildings is by far higher. Costs are high for capitalism if we renovate, capitalism loves to demolish and build new!

Summarizing, in overall, choose renovation! :-)



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