UCL Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering


Demolition or Retrofitting? UCL researchers feature in a BBC documentary on building management

24 January 2023

UCL Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering researchers Yair Schwartz and Rokia Raslan gave their expertise to the BBC on new builds, retrofitting and refurbishment

Photo of internal refurbishment work in a property

Dr. Yair Schwartz and Dr. Rokia Raslan of the UCL Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering were interviewed in a BBC documentary dealing with the question of the environmental impacts refurbishments vs replacements of existing buildings, entitled, 'We Are England - Hanging onto home: what happened next'. The film tells the story of a family of four who are living in a one-bedroom property council estate in West London. The owner-occupants saved all the money they could to buy this property nearly two decades ago intending it to be their home for life and an inheritance for their children. Now Ealing council wants to demolish it, to make way for a £600m regeneration programme. The family are the only people left living in this once-busy community - the council are offering to buy his home, but the family is refusing to move, claiming not only that their offer is below the market rate, but that the council would have done less environmental damage by refurbishing rather than demolishing and then rebuilding the estate. Following previous work on ‘Refurbishment or Replacement’ Dr. Schwartz and Dr. Raslan were asked for their view on the case. In the programme, Yair noted:

Data shows that, overall, refurbishment tends to be a better option than replacement (for buildings), though this is not conclusive and it depends on the initial state of the building, but also the details of the new proposal, the relevant building systems etc., so it is really case-by-case.

Rokia noted:

Developers are more used to building than they are to refurbishing, so they have the tools to understand making new buildings, the cost implications etc. What a lot of them don't have is the tools and the knowledge around retrofitting and refurbishment. 


  • Watch the programme, 'We Are England - Hanging onto home: what happened next', here.
  • Read about Rokia's work here.
  • Read about Yair's work here.


Photo credit: Kindel Media / pexels.com