Embodied carbon in Museum Street

A hard-hitting report by environmental experts Targeting Zero, commissioned by Save Museum Street and Climate Emergency Camden, has lambasted the proposals for Museum Street put forward by developer LabTech, funded by billionaire ex-con Teddy Sagi.

The proposed development, including a huge 81 metre office block, in the heart of the iconic conservation areas of Covent Garden and Bloomsbury, is predicated upon the demolition of a substantial, structurally sound, existing building, formerly the head office of Trusthouse Forte, to make way for a taller and bulkier tower block, containing 251,400 sqm of offices. The developers are hoping to persuade Camden and The Greater London Authority’s planners to accept this massive office increase with the sweetener of a mere 12 “affordable” flats.

The Targeting Zero report written by Simon Sturgis, an expert in sustainable buildings and leading light on low carbon construction methods, is released today.

The report finds that LabTech has grossly misrepresented the carbon costs in making the case for demolition and rebuilding rather than retrofitting the existing building. Sturgis writes that if Camden Council and the Greater London Authority give consent for the demolition and replacement of Selkirk House:

‘They will in effect be granting approval to emit approx. 64,000 tonnes of unnecessary carbon emissions over the next 60 years, plus generate a significant amount of unnecessary waste.’

‘The demolition and rebuild of 1 Museum Street (Selkirk House) compared to a retrofit of the existing building is likely to require some 1 million trees 10 years to absorb the additional carbon emissions.’

The construction industry is a major source (over 40%) of UK CO₂ emissions. The government, the Greater London Authority and Camden Council are committed to the existence of a climate emergency and have vowed to stop unnecessary demolition of structurally sound buildings. However, they currently fail to implement these policies.

The Climate Change Act of 2008 mandates a 78% reduction in UK carbon emissions by 2035 and the key Greater London Authority planning directive is:

“Before embarking on the design of a new structure or building, the retrofit or reuse of any existing built structures, in part or whole, should be a priority consideration as this is typically the lowest carbon option. Significant retention and reuse of structures also reduces construction costs and can contribute to a smoother planning process”.

The Save Museum Street campaign and Climate Emergency Camden welcomed the report and said:

“LabTech’s proposed over-development of this sensitive site would contribute significantly to climate change. The Targeting Zero report explains that Retro-fit would be a more sustainable way forward. The failure of the planners of both Camden Council and the Greater London Authority to make clear to LabTech that a retrofit approach should be adopted, is reprehensible and the lack of any political direction by both authorities with this regard is lamentable. The world cannot cope with LabTech’s kind of behaviour; their rampant greed pays no regard to the future of our planet as we know it”. ‘

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