Is it More Sustainable to Build New or to Remodel?

There are many factors to consider when deciding whether to build a new home or renovate an existing one. Which approach has a greater negative effect on the environment, and which is more sustainable? What variables can impact the project’s ecological footprint?

Generally, renovating an existing building is more eco-friendly than building a new one from scratch. New construction is more material-intensive and creates more waste than renovation. Extracting, packaging and transporting the materials adds to the project’s emissions. It also causes more air, water and noise pollution. A costly demolition might also be necessary.

You can also seamlessly integrate more sustainable features into an existing structure and reduce its energy expenditure. This feat is harder to pull off when building from scratch.

But all of this depends on several key factors — material selection, the project’s scale and the homeowner’s lifestyle.

Using lots of natural and recycled materials can make a construction project more sustainable than a renovation. Eco-friendly options like bamboo, straw bale and rammed earth are becoming increasingly popular.

The scale of the renovation or construction project also comes into play. Extensive remodels like the addition of a pool, garage or extra bathroom could have a more significant environmental impact than building from scratch. These types of projects consume lots of water and electricity — not just during the renovation process, but throughout the rest of their life cycles.

Traditional construction methods might be less eco-friendly than the average renovation. Still, new strategies and design styles are emerging that could make building new structures much more sustainable. Modular building and 3D printing have the potential to reduce the construction industry’s collective environmental footprint.

The homeowner’s lifestyle is arguably the most influential factor. How do you intend to use the renovation or new house? If you incorporate eco-friendly appliances and use the renovation’s new utilities responsibly, you can minimize its environmental impact and be 100% sure it’s more sustainable than building new.

Consider all the factors carefully before making your decision.

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1 thought on “Is it More Sustainable to Build New or to Remodel?”

  1. I would definitely choose reconstruction if the building is in such a state that it can be renovated. The main reason is that it is fast, especially when contractors use automated programs like this one Also, remodeling is certainly cheaper than building from scratch.


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