There are those that would have us believe that an anti-demolition lobby is the figment of a fevered imagination; that politicians, academics and environmentalists are not working to protect the carbon embodied in the UK’s building stock by favouring retrofitting over rebuilding; that demolition with all its dust, noise and vibration still has a place in the nation’s heart.
The evidence, however, increasingly suggests otherwise. And now, the city of Birmingham has become the latest battleground between those that see demolition as the first-step on the path to progress and renewal; and those that are determined to safeguard the future by protecting the past.
According to the much-respected Architects Journal, campaigners have suggested an alternative to plans that would involve the demolition of Birmingham’s Ringway Centre.
Local organisations Birmingham Modernist Society, Brutiful Birmingham and Zero Carbon House have joined together to set out their alternative vision in a document that is supported by conservation group the Twentieth Century Society.
The 26-page counterproposal outlines the possibility of retrofitting – rather than flattening – the 1962 Ringsway Centre.
The original proposals involved demolishing the Ringway Centre in three phases, replacing it with three new buildings, the tallest of which would be 56 storeys.
Although the Ringway Centre is listed locally as a Grade B heritage asset, the plans would ensure the entire building is demolished – little over six decades since its completion.
Campaigners say this approach is based on both a misunderstanding of the centre’s quality and of environmental considerations – particularly in light of Birmingham’s net zero targets – because of the amount of CO2 that would be released by pulling down the building as well as the construction phase.
“Demolition and extensive new construction are revealed [as] particularly damaging, as they would both cause large and immediate “spikes” in carbon emissions,” the counterproposal explains. “Far from reducing carbon, as City and UK policy requires in the next few years, the proposals would result in a significant increase in emissions.”