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Stop Knocking Down Buildings–Harrabin

September 25, 2021

By Paul Homewood


h/t Ian Magness

Even by Harrabin standards, this really is a disgracefully biased piece:



Britain’s top engineers are urging the government to stop buildings being demolished.

Making bricks and steel creates vast amounts of CO2, with cement alone causing 8% of global emissions.

They say the construction industry should where possible re-use buildings, employ more recycled material, and use machinery powered by clean fuels.

They are concerned about "embodied emissions", which is the CO2 emitted when buildings and materials are made..

They believe that unlike carbon from aircraft, vehicles and gas boilers, embodied emissions are not in people’s minds.

They suspect few people realise there’s a carbon impact from, for instance, building a home extension.

The report, steered by the Royal Academy of Engineering, said a new way of thinking is needed before planning new homes, factories, roads and bridges.

Prof Rebecca Lunn from Strathclyde University, one of the report’s authors, said: "Our biggest failure is that we build buildings, then we knock them down and throw them away. We must stop doing this."

Fellow author, Mike Cook, adjunct professor at Imperial College, challenged the government’s £27bn road-building programme because of the embodied emissions created to obtain the concrete and tarmac, as well as the use of very polluting machines to construct the highways.

Prof Cook told BBC News: "We have to radically revise the way we look at things.

"The most important thing is to maximise the use of existing road infrastructure by using smart motorways to maximise every inch of tarmac."

Speaking in a personal capacity, he added that the decision on Heathrow expansion should be re-visited following stronger warnings from climate scientists. 


In fact, far from this being a serious technical report from “Britain’s top engineers”, it is nothing more than political propaganda.

The misleadingly named “Royal Academy of Engineering” is not, as you might think, the professional body for engineers, but, in its own words, a lobby group for a sustainable society and inclusive economy".



What Harrabin reports as expert recommendations is no more than the political views of a few eco cranks.

In true Harrabin fashion, of course, you don’t hear the other side of the story. His only comments from non-cranks is a rather vacuous government statement that the UK was a "world leader in tackling climate change”

As for the idea that people should be forced to carry on living in old, shabby (not to mention badly insulated) blocks of flats just because it saves a few emissions, it shows just how much these extremists hate ordinary people.

  1. James Neill permalink
    September 25, 2021 10:41 am

    There is in Mr Harrabin’s comments an unstated political bias apart from what we expect from the BBC. “The Royal Society of Engineering” is a misnomer as any royal society has to have a Charter from the reigning Monarch. I suspect that the group members have called themselves something both reasonable and authoritative which is a common trick of hard left organisations as it makes it easier for them to get their propaganda out. I wonder where the political sympathies of the “Royal Academy of Engineering” actually lie?

    • Wiggers permalink
      September 25, 2021 1:28 pm

      The Royal Academy of Engineering does have a Royal charter:

      • James Neill permalink
        September 25, 2021 9:19 pm

        I stand corrected. Thank you for pointing out my mistake.

      • Duker permalink
        September 26, 2021 3:34 am

        Its not a professional institution Licensed by the Engineering Council like the Institution of Civil Engineers and Royal Aeronautical Society and dozens of others.
        RAEng is relatively small with only 1500 fellows.
        There is also the Worshipful Company of Engineers founded about the same time

  2. Joe Public permalink
    September 25, 2021 10:42 am

    Thanks for exposing the true nature of Harrabin’s source.

  3. GeoffB permalink
    September 25, 2021 10:44 am

    Eco loons cannot have it both ways, our housing stock is old and badly insulated and should be replaced OR stop demolishing as the replacement creates carbon. Professor is just a pay grade at university, it does not mean that you are intelligent!
    O/T ITV news yesterday had a report on how climate change was causing coastal erosion to speed up, all lies.

    • Harry Davidson permalink
      September 25, 2021 12:51 pm

      There are very few houses that cannot be properly insulated. A 35mm Phenolic insulation layer with 15mm Plasterboard covering stuck to the inside of the walls, plus plastic windows is astonishingly effective. It also means that when heating the room from cold you don’t have heat up a lot of brickwork before it gets warm. 10mins from ‘freezing’ to warm. Its not cheap to do properly, the floor boards (most of them) have to come out so you can fit the insulation on a straight run ground to roof is necessary, and the joint ends must be protected against damp if they are not already.

      Even line of roof ceilings, more of the same will get the insulation to a U value of 2, then even with a slate roof that will be a good as a normal ceiling room.

      The only houses you can’t do this to are ones where the rooms are already so small that losing 50mm on the outside edges would be a disaster.

      In the loft, if you push 50mm of silver coated Phenolic between the joists and the 200mm of Rockwool on top crosswise over the joists, heat loss will be negligible. For round the eaves where there is no space for the Rockwool, double the Phenolic.

  4. September 25, 2021 10:48 am

    And what exactly are the embodied emissions in the construction, transport, installation and maintenance of wind turbines and solar panels, and their associated transmission lines?

    • Michael Roberts permalink
      September 25, 2021 10:56 am

      Oh well, that’s different … 🙄

    • Ian Johnson permalink
      September 25, 2021 11:31 am

      Wind turbine blades are reliant on petrochemicals for their manufacture, and, I presume, the motor lubricants. The blades are plastic.

      • charles wardrop permalink
        September 25, 2021 11:41 am

        And have to be buried in landfill-enormous and useless monstrosities.

      • Broadlands permalink
        September 25, 2021 12:53 pm

        When will all these “green” fools understand that everything we do requires transportation at some point. And that can only be done with carbon fuels. Even making and transporting lithium batteries and the vehicles that use them. Petroleum is needed for concrete and asphalt roadways to get anything anywhere…food and people. Seems pretty basic.

  5. Joe Public permalink
    September 25, 2021 10:51 am

    Someone ought to remind Harrabin that numerous buildings were knocked down so that the BBC could have brand new buildings at ‘Media-City’ for approx 3,200 staff to work in twenty-six departments.

  6. dave permalink
    September 25, 2021 11:04 am

    Real leading engineers like my son do advise against unnecessary demolition when there is a realistic option to refurbish, and especially with fairly modern commercial buildings. They advise FOR demolition of useless or shoddy buildings! We do not want to go the way of the rotting inner cores of U.S.A. cities. Round where I live, the only buildings which are being bull-dosed are redundant sad old pubs.

  7. Gerry, England permalink
    September 25, 2021 11:11 am

    The overarching body for Engineers is the Engineering Council but they would not involve themselves in anything like this – that would be the individual institutions. But sadly many of them have fallen for the global warming scam and would produce this kind of BS.

    Having said that, when it comes to commercial property then I would agree that what look like perfectly good buildings that are not that old are being demolished. Thanks to Streetview you can go back and see what was at sites and there have been a few in the City of London where you have to wonder at the sense of it. And then ironically you look around and see some godawful 60s and 70s monstrosities crying out to be flattened.

    • dave permalink
      September 26, 2021 8:41 am

      I suspect that it is sometimes the Architects who push for demolition. There is more money in the fees for a new building.

      Sometimes it is just ego, that demands the new. In Toronto, in the 1970s, every big bank put up new towers at the same time; the CEOs of the banks regarded it as a personal competition.

  8. MACK permalink
    September 25, 2021 11:14 am

    An industrial strength recession will put an end to this madness.

  9. taylor361 permalink
    September 25, 2021 11:15 am

    The BBC will run any story that mentions CO2 climate change and the wickedness of capitalist economy. Harrabin has made a very good living regurgitating the above and only changing the order they appear.

  10. Ian PRSY permalink
    September 25, 2021 11:18 am

    My council has recently approved a mega-distribution centre and is just about to approve a proposal for 1700 houses, 1msqft of commercial and a link road, at the same time as it launches its Zero40 climate policy. I suppose it’s a national trend now, but they also approve the demolition of good quality property to allow construction of tasteless (in many instances) look-how-much-money-I’ve-got mansions for people who don’t know what to do with their money. Hypocrisy of the highest order.

  11. M E permalink
    September 25, 2021 11:22 am

    🙂 Are we allowed to rebuild a city after a series of earthquakes? 🙂 or should we sacrifice it to Nature. Earthquakes are natural , after all. Should we go against Nature? More to worry about everyday!

  12. Jack Broughton permalink
    September 25, 2021 11:23 am

    A new so-called expert group to justify the politicos: “Britain’s top engineers”. Like all the other selected expert groups, this is a merely a group of engineers who agree with the politicos like Hasbeen.

    As a number of others have commented, engineering professors are far from the leading engineers: “Those that can do, those that cannot do, teach; and, those who cannot teach, teach-teachers.”

  13. cookers52 permalink
    September 25, 2021 11:49 am

    Engineers have commented and advised the Government that new major reservoirs are needed without delay to keep water running out of our taps.
    No major reservoirs have been built since 1991 in that time the population has increased from 57m to 67m

    Government have left us exposed to drought and when the inevitable water shortage happens will blame climate change.

    Harrabin ignores the obvious risks of net zero.

  14. Gamecock permalink
    September 25, 2021 11:56 am

    ‘Speaking in a personal capacity, he added that the decision on Heathrow expansion should be re-visited following stronger warnings from climate scientists.’

    Stronger? You gotta laugh.

    A practicing architectural engineer will point out that he and the construction company are responsible for their creation. It is professional and business suicide to build on SOMEONE ELSE’S foundation.

    ‘They say the construction industry should where possible re-use buildings’

    The double whammy of ignorant AND stupid.

    Thanks, BBC!

  15. LeedsChris permalink
    September 25, 2021 12:17 pm

    Some of this is politicians’ own fault…(!!!). If I recall correctly empty commercial buildings used to be exempt from business rates, but the Government changed the rules about 20 years ago as an incentive to try and get vacant buildings used. In fact what it meant was that it increased the incentive to clear the site as quickly as possible after the ‘three month grace’ period of rates exemption in those cases where you might have to wait a long time for someone to re-use it.

  16. Philip permalink
    September 25, 2021 12:48 pm

    Hidden ’embodied emissions’ – like those in the foundations of ‘carbon free’ windmills for example?

  17. Philip permalink
    September 25, 2021 12:52 pm

    What about all the houses and flats built as a direct result of immigration? Boris has invited 3 million Hong Kongers to come and live here. Carbon footprint Boris? Did Carrie Antoinette not spot that one? Oh yes, p***ing off China ranks higher than the Global Warming scam…

  18. It doesn't add up... permalink
    September 25, 2021 2:12 pm

    Harrabin’s Catch 22: we will have to rebuild almost every building in the UK to achieve zero carbon standards.

    • Martin Brumby permalink
      September 25, 2021 11:45 pm

      It Doesn’t Add Up.


      All this crap is the latest fashionable GangGreen virtue signal.

      Some prat was on the telly only yesterday saying that rather than build new houses ‘up North’, we should convert the 200+ old Mill buildings for housing.

      Yeah, right! Many old mills will be listed, so English Heritage will ensure it would be eye-wateringly expensive – or impossible, to convert to housing. Especially as insulation and a host of other genius regulations would heap more cost on such a project. Then there’s Grenfell…

      In addition, who (being mindful of changes in Society in recent years), would really want to live in an old Mill in Rochdale or Rotherham, for example. Do they think that’s what all the tens of thousands of “Syrians” (now “Afghans””) were really hoping for, when they paid thousands to people smugglers to illegally immigrate?

      This whole idea is a variant of the old, laughable, “zero waste” scam. They still haven’t provided a realist answer to how they intend to re-use kipper skins, shitty nappies and all the rest.

  19. Is it just me? permalink
    September 25, 2021 3:04 pm

    I am probably repeating a great deal of what has been already observed, so sorry about that – but maybe an interesting perspective from an ecological designer, frustrated architect, ex tech guy? I have been imploring the construction industry from 2010 onwards to re-use buildings where appropriate and feasible, and use natural plant walls and green roofs to help with insulation and air quality – which has been proven to significantly aid both. Deaf ears. For years – tax breaks and just the whole way the construction industry has evolved = 99% rebuild except where preservation orders exist. There is some argument sometimes for rebuild/redevelopment. The need for extra housing stock. The need for greater building efficiency and longevity. The removal of hazardous asbestos and other toxic materials. Get all that. However, and in my humble opinion, the shells of certain buildings are fine and could/should have been redeveloped. The 1960’s and 1970’s were dark days for architecture & construction – and if you look at Grenfell as a prime example of irresponsible refurbishment – the argument starts to lose it’s way. Construction in the 1960’s and 1970’s was also on occassions – dire. Truly crap. Remember the 1970’s? I worked briefly as a technician in an architect’s practice in the late 1970’s. Unions calling everyone out on strike every verse end. The beginnings of wholesale ‘quick grow’ sub-standard timber. Corners being cut everywhere. These places (in some cases) have defied gravity over half a century that they are still standing up! Re-purposing something that was crap to begin with makes no ecological, or environmental, or practical sense. It is – I believe – a knee-jerk reaction to the greed (which does undoubtedly exist) in the developer sector, but two wrongs do not a right make.

  20. Phil Beckley permalink
    September 25, 2021 5:23 pm

    Considerations of beauty seem to be out the non sash window when it comes to new buildings.

  21. Stephen Lord permalink
    September 26, 2021 4:40 am

    The climate alarmists are determined to shut down the economy and thrust into poverty

  22. Luc Ozade permalink
    September 26, 2021 4:49 am

    As always, Paul, very well investigated and written up.

    • Luc Ozade permalink
      September 26, 2021 6:55 am

      I have to admit that, despite about 12 years of reading/researching and learning about AGW in general, I cannot recall reading about “embodied emissions” before. But a quick scan of Wikipedia on the subject prompts more questions than answers.

      It never ceases to amaze me how the imaginative brains of mankind can always find some new niche or other in which to focus and, not just make an income from, but even to the extent of creating a whole new area for research, investment and manipulation for those clever enough to exploit it for their own gain. Naturally this also leads to the exploitation and application of the ‘new’ angle for use by alarmists.

      Reading further, I understand there are models (naturally) and methods for estimating the so-called embodied emissions from things like older buildings. This made me wonder into how much detail the systems go when calculating the “carbon cost”.

      Take my own house for example: built in 1901 from mainly stone blocks. I wonder if the “carbon” embodied in the building of it would take into account things like: the “carbon” produced by manufacturing the carts used to transport the stone to the building site? Or the feedstuffs grown to feed the horses? Or the making of the iron for the horses hooves? Or the number of farts emitted by the horses as they worked?

      I can’t wait (and probably at my advanced age will be unable to) for this whole CO2 scam to be exposed for what it is. I try to do my bit by, among other things, submitting stuff to the excellent GB News and other places. But it simply seems to rumble on, unceasingly. Even ITV is now catching up with the BBC in spreading alarm – to the detriment of young people’s further anxiety about the future. When required (and it seems to be heading that way) my pitchfork is ready.

  23. Russ Wood permalink
    September 26, 2021 1:18 pm

    “embodied emissions” – Just another one of Mencken’s ‘hobgoblins’!

  24. Coeur de Lion permalink
    September 26, 2021 3:11 pm

    “Cement is 8 per cent of global emissions”. OO-er! Nasty little lie there, Harrabin. Careless reader won’t realise that Uk’s total carbon dioxide emissions are but one per cent of global. Why don’t you tell us that? Because you and the BBC are liars. I’m sure you’ve read Andrew Montford’s The Propanda Bureau which skewers you for a manipulative conspirator who spent thousands of my money improperly fending off a Freedom of Information request about who were your co-conspirators.

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