Made at UCL


Don’t knock down – refurb as an option

For urban regeneration, refurbishment can be better than demolition and positively affect factors related to wellbeing and the environment. How do we know? UCL Engineering Exchange spoke to communities and people who were affected by proposed plans.

Don’t knock down refurb as an option

The Engineering Exchange at UCL (EngEx) is a network of engineers, built environment specialists and Londoners who are committed to making UCL expertise available to communities, while helping staff and students align their work with local needs. One of the areas EngEx has been working in is urban regeneration. 

Along with the UCL Urban Laboratory, EngEx were commissioned by community network Just Space and the London Tenants Federation to review the technical evidence for demolition or refurbishment of social housing in London.

The review found that housing refurbishment is often better than demolition and reconstruction, when considering factors relating to wellbeing and the environment. With valuable input from community clients, the EngEx developed a series of resources like fact sheets, videos, and a community toolkit in addition to the peer-reviewed report. These enabled communities to assess due diligence while encouraging more transparent decision-making around demolition or refurbishment of social housing in London. 
In urban regeneration, estimating the costs and impact of refurbishment compared with demolition is complex, uncertain and subjective, especially when it comes to non-monetary costs and benefits like wellbeing. Yet decisions are often made without properly talking to local residents and communities.
EngEx say the process could be improved by a consistent and transparent approach to the reporting of lifecycle costs, energy and carbon, water and waste, and monitoring the wellbeing of those affected by refurbishment and demolition. A more balanced interdisciplinary view of what housing interventions mean for people, and who the winners and losers are in both the short and long term, is needed and, more crucially, more human interaction with those who the work actually affects is required.



  • Credit: Photomat, Source: Pixabay