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“The most sustainable building” is the one that exists: dereliction or the climate crisis

“The most sustainable building” is the one that exists: dereliction or the climate crisis

Opinion: where does the climate crisis in pop culture go from here?

28 January 2022 

When Frank O’Connor and Jude Sherry moved back to Cork City from Amsterdam, they noticed some similarities between the two.

Particularly, they were drawn to the rich heritage and architecture of both cities. However, there was one thing they noticed between them: the scale dereliction. 

Frank and Jude found that Amsterdam had done a lot in the majority of cases to address the problem., but it was an entirely different story when it came to Cork City and the general attitude in Ireland to “just accept” these visual and communal eye sores.  

Anois was founded by Frank and Jude in 2016. It focuses on sustainable design, and the circular economy model. The agency published a publication in May of last year. This is Derelict Ireland. The group debunked common myths surrounding dereliction, and documented their own assessment of its extent in Cork. 

According to their own analysis there are 340 vacant properties within 2 kilometers of the city center island. 

Both academics and advocates have repeatedly stressed the importance of addressing dereliction in Ireland’s ongoing housing crisis. It is also part of the solution for another ongoing crisis: the climate crisis. 

How did we get to this point? 

According to Cork City Council, a derelict site is “any property/land that detracts, or is likely to detract to a material degree from the amenity, character or appearance of land in the neighborhood in question because of neglected use or unsightly condition”. 

It could be ruinous, in a dangerous condition, neglected, decaying, unsightly, contain litter, rubbish, debris or waste and is primarily caused by a lack of care and maintenance “further compounded by long-term vacancy,” Anois’ report said. 

Their document also warned that it tends to have a “contagion character” as a trend: if left unaddressed, it can quickly spread to other parts of urban areas. 

If it is not addressed, dereliction can have many negative effects on a community. 

According to a StudyAccording to the Scottish Land Commission, residents who live in close proximity to long-term vacant or dereliction can have negative effects on their physical and mental health, local economy, and environment. Pollutants can leach into soil, waterways, and residents can be exposed toxic materials like asbestos. 

The exact national number of vacant derelict properties is hard to know – but there is some indication of the scale of the problem in the 2016 Census, which found that there were over 180,000 vacant (but not all derelict) properties in the country. 

According to Assistant Professor at Maynooth University of Social Policy, the path to Ireland’s current rate dereliction is traceable back to the 1980s and commodification and housing. Housing Shock Rory Hearne, author 

When Ireland entered a period with accelerated economic growth in mid-1990s, its approach to housing and urban environments was completely transformed by a developer-led approach. 

Professor Hearne said that while estates were built on the edges and in the towns, transport changed to the car, and that town centres began to decline during The Celtic Tiger Years. The Green News. 

Planning of towns and cities became completely oriented towards facilitating the development of green field sites in the 1990s and 2000s and there was “no consideration of the value of living in a town centre,” he added. 

In the mid-2010s we see that the emphasis is still on new development rather than our existing housing stock. 

Now with an electorate increasingly concerned by the housing crisis, we’re seeing at the policy level, “at last a recognition that vacancy and dereliction has to be addressed. It’s key to bringing back rural areas and it’s sustainable,” according to Rory Hearne.

And just last year The Government’s Housing For All Strategy mentions the need to address vacant and derelict properties, and stresses that it will strengthen the capacity of Local Authorities to address the issue. 

Notably, the document says that rejuvenating towns and cities and “breathing life into once loved buildings” will support another key component of the current Government’s agenda: the Climate Action Plan. 

“The most sustainable building is the existing one”

A statement you’ll often hear from people working on this issue is one that tends to stick: “the most sustainable building is the existing one”. 

This line has many factors.

According to the Irish Green Building Council (Irish Green Building Council), 11% of Ireland’s annual emissions come from the Construction process. If a country were to emit carbon dioxide, cement, which is a key component in many new buildings, would be the third largest. However, it would be overtaken by the United States of America and China. 

It can be found at every stage of the production. AccountsAbout four to eight percent of global carbon dioxide emissions are caused by them. Materials are the most important sources of greenhouse gas emissions. 

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Then we’ve got the matter of waste. According to the Irish Department of Environment and Planning, construction and demolition produced 8.8 million tonnes waste in Ireland in 2019. Environmental Protection Agency

Anois stated that the EPA figure was a staggering 63% for all the waste generated in that country during that year. Only 6.8% of the waste was reprocessed, and very little was actually reused. 

When it comes to new builds, there seems to be an industry-wide move to a timber-framed model – but that then brings up the issue of how the wood itself is sourced and how sustainable it would be. 

Therefore, the use of existing buildings would reduce both national construction emissions and waste – hence making them “the most sustainable”. 

How to tackle it 

If real political will and effort is put into tackling dereliction, the issue could be resolved within five to ten years, according to Frank O’Connor. 

One of the key obstacles to addressing the problem is the inability to enforce existing regulations under the 1990 Derelict Site Act. For example, the low collection rate on the dereliction tax. 

But if Local Authorities followed through on the legislation and collected the sum in full, you’d start to see “a huge pot of money” that could be used to rejuvenate town centres, Frank told The Green News. 

Register every derelict property to be able to issue Compulsory Purchase Orders. This would allow local authorities to take possession of the property and land without consent and offer compensation. 

Apart from addressing the current and continuing housing and climate crises, restoring and restoring homes in Ireland serves a purpose in the world’s adaptation to the climate emergency. 

“We need to future-proof our cities,” Jude Sherry warned. 

“As the climate crisis hits, prices for materials will massively increase. Living more densely is the only way to reduce our consumption. 

We need to make these areas nice, comforting and appealing to everyone to make that change,” she said. 

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