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Aging Social Housing: Pull it down and build something better? Or refurbish it?
Over the past few decades, some countries influenced by neoliberal political thought have dodged the practicalities of the question by demonizing truly affordable housing. The United States is an example. It also happens to support free-market developers who have other, supposedly better, uses for the land where public/social housing currently sits.
Other countries have a tradition of refurbishment. Witness the 2021 award to a pair of French architects, who have made a career out of refurbishing social housing.
With a lack of funding for either pulling down or fixing up affordable housing, the cheapest route has for a very long time been to ‘pull it down.’
Two factors are conspiring to change this ‘convenient’ solution to aging social housing. First, for whatever reasons, many countries are facing a growing crisis of truly affordable housing. In spite of all the promises that the free market will take care of creating the necessary truly affordable housing, after several decades now, it flat out just isn’t happening.
The second factor is climate change, which is starting to be considered when re-developing land, and/or refurbishing existing uses.
Suddenly, methods that once seemed inexpensive — levelling a building using explosives, for example — turn out to have a significant cost in emitted carbon. That cost could revise the overall decision-making about refurbishing and/or demolishing existing social housing. And that is even before considering carbon-efficient ways of building new.
How to evaluate and compare the best carbon outcomes for both new and already-existing buildings? Building the same project many times in different ways is hardly likely.
One answer is to use digital twins: creating a ‘virtual’ copy of a building project in a virtual universe that can inexpensively predict the carbon costs of real life approaches and minimize carbon costs.
How does it work? Read more about a current digital twinning project in Dublin, Ireland in IRISH TECH NEWS: Digital Twins To Decarbonise Dublin’s Social Housing
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