Repurposing disused sites

23rd March 2023   |   Jamie Barrett   |   Reading Time: 4 minutes

5 sustainability considerations

Reduce, reuse, recycle – it’s a familiar green concept in our everyday life, a notion that is becoming even more pressing as we strive to reduce waste, be more sustainable, and protect our planet. This article considers key sustainability considerations in repurposing disused sites for construction. 

By the very nature of its size and scope, the construction industry has a big role to play in the circular economy of reusing and repurposing.

Repurposing disused brownfield sites isn’t a new concept for construction, but as the industry works to become more sustainable, it is increasingly being pushed by the sector and Government, reflected in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and Brownfield Land Release Fund.

But whilst repurposing of disused brownfield sites makes eco-sense, it comes with unique opportunities, challenges, and considerations.

Environmental impact of repurposing brownfield sites

The scarcity of greenfield land and its vitality to the UK’s and the world’s natural environment mean that preserving untouched land is paramount in minimising environmental impact.

The alternative to meet the demands of housing and commercial development is to develop disused sites – an approach that is invariably considered more sustainable and environmentally responsible.

The reuse of brownfield sites is advocated by many organisations and strategies including the UK Sustainable Development Strategy and the Campaign to Protect Rural England.

The use of brownfield sites, as opposed to green belt land, also has an environmental impact on biodiversity, with the likelihood that there is little or no wildlife to displace as the site has already been used.

Disused land, if left undeveloped, can also pose threats to environmental health due to contamination and pollution in the soil, air, and water so its repurposing has the potential to improve the overall environment.

Adaptive reuse for sustainability

Repurposing disused sites can mean demolition and use of the land to build an entirely new development or the use of the existing buildings on the site repurposed into something new such as the current trend for office to residential conversions. Both options have a variety of factors and considerations, from underlying issues with the land to the safety and structural soundness of existing buildings.

Adaptive reuse – reusing an existing building for a new purpose – is arguably the most sustainable way of developing disused sites, but it is dependent upon building suitability and can come with complications.

The sustainable benefits of adaptive reuse include the recycling of usable components of buildings for new use, cost savings from using existing buildings, and, in some cases, the preservation of the cultural heritage of buildings.

Reuse and recycling of construction materials

A sustainable and cost-benefit of repurposing disused sites can be the potential to reuse and recycle materials from the original construction.

Recycling facility Ace Liftaway wash plant

Construction materials from the original buildings and site can be reused or recycled meaning cost savings for both the developer and the overall environment. Materials can either be reused onsite or sent for recycling.

Concrete and brick can be used as rubble or aggregate; wood can be reused or repurposed; glass, metal, and plastics can be recycled; and plasterboard can be composted.

Commercial considerations of repurposing disused sites

Sustainability can be achieved in conjunction with cost savings. From a commercial perspective, repurposing disused sites has the potential to save costs and maximise return on investment.

Disused sites may already be served by supporting infrastructure, negating the need for time and investment in amenities, electricity, water connections, and road networks.

If the land is contaminated, whilst the cost of decontamination can be significant, Land Remediation Relief is an enhanced corporation tax relief of 150% for cleaning up contamination in land or buildings which can generate significant savings on development projects involving contaminated or derelict sites.

Creating sustainable communities through regeneration

Sustainability isn’t purely environmental. The construction industry has the potential to support sustainability not only from a green perspective but also in the communities in which buildings and sites are being developed.

Whether urban or rural, disused sites will have an impact on their surrounding communities, and their redevelopment has the potential to be a catalyst for both economic and community sustainability.

Regeneration projects can provide affordable housing, generate employment opportunities, and create new safe and enjoyable community spaces.

How Evolution5 can help you

At Evolution5 we are passionate about protecting and preserving our planet. We strive to do this by implementing practices that ensure better lives for us all, environmental leadership, and a climate of excellence. Our commitment runs through the heart of the company and is driven by our people, and also clearly communicated to those with whom we collaborate and for whom we provide our professional services.

Evolution5 believes that everyone we do business with has a duty to contribute to making construction a responsible and sustainable industry.

Our award-winning team is experienced in supporting clients across London and the South East from feasibility to project completion. To find out more about how our main contracting, project or cost management services, contact us for a complimentary initial consultation.

If you have a construction project and want to explore how the team can help you, click the button below or call 023 8040 5073.