Refurbish of replace? Sometimes the answer is clear but the case with zero-energy single family homes or tenement houses is less unambiguous when it comes to the decision to refurbish or replace. Zero-energy can only be energetically sucessful if the neighbors go along, which is not always the case. At this moment in time zero-energy is too expensive for individual installation. Only applications on an industrial scale can lead to acceptable pricing. This requires investments in systematic product developments that exceed the boundaries of single projects.
When homes are written off they are demolished one by one and replaced by autonomous detached homes. Even if the neighbors do not collaborate the new house can enjoy the maximal thermal isolation. The house is constructed with modern materials, systems, partitioning and facilities. This industrial approach is better and less costly compared to the zero-energy approach.
WeLL Design has studied ‘replacement’ extensively. Replacing a home built in the 60’s to 80’s is technically possible and can be realised within 1 week. Such an approach requires close collaboration between the stakeholders and the regulatory agencies of the city, county or borough. An example of a regulatory restraint is the requirement that a home be replaced within a week to limit the neighbors’ inconvenience.
The situation sketched above will cause a further transition from small-scale contractors to industrial scale builders with great opportunities for export. Streets can be pleasantly transformed into neighborhoods that acknowledge and respect the human dimension.