Tax is outdated making refurbishing old buildings to reduce emissions and the delivery of better quality construction too expensive

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Full article in The Conversation, 25 Oct 2019 by Walter Menteth


The construction of new buildings in the UK emits 48 megatonnes of CO₂ each year – equavalent to Scotland’s entire net emissions. The materials, transportation and construction processes for new buildings are all carbon intensive. Existing buildings already embody significant CO₂ emissions which makes it all the more important to upgrade and refurbish – rather than demolish and rebuild – wherever possible. But as it stands, the UK’s tax system actually puts a significant financial penalty on refurbishment, while incentivising new construction.

Construction VAT rates for all dwellings should be simplified: with all new or existing building works charged at 5% rate, as experts have long called for. It is also proposed that the existing 0% VAT rate for new dwellings be redefined, so that developers can only obtain financial rewards if they use low-carbon construction techniques certified on completion to deliver qualitative change and create highly energy efficient buildings.

This could accelerate reductions in CO₂ emissions and improve the quality of outputs while creating long-term economic benefits by reducing demands on energy supply and materials consumption – all of which could be done quite simply.

The article here describes how. – expanded & relaunched the first international portal for architecture commissions covering all European countries has now been relaunched. It remains free to all but with its new and expanded form it now covers thirty-nine European Countries. offers greater access and insights into public procurement and competition culture in Europe, contributing to improving construction culture across the continent.

The new easy to use homepage provides access to:

  • The European legislation which applies, and which can be read in each countries operating language.
  • The national flag links to the public procurement legislation of the country in question.
  • Public procurement and competition portals for each country so they can be directly accessed and consulted.
  • Competitions guidance, information and research publications from each country
  • Links to architecture networks along with public and private organisations involved in public procurement and competitions in that country.

Never before has all this information about each of the 39 European countries been compiled, presented and made so fully accessible.

This project aligns with the European Ministers of Culture’s call in the Davos Declaration 2018, for development of a high-quality ‘building culture’ in Europe. has been created in close collaboration between ourselves (UK), Architectuur Lokaal (NL), A10 new European architecture cooperative (EU) and many partners in various European countries. The relaunched site further implements collaborations, analysis, research, findings and development scoped by Project Compass CIC, Architectur Lokaal, within the ‘European Competition Programmer Handbook:GreenArch project results‘, by the ‘Competition Culture in Europe Programme‘ and at International competitions gatherings held in Prague (CZ), Paris (FR), London (UK), Amsterdam (NL), Venice (IT), Chęciny (PL) and Vilnius (LT). is being maintained with the support of the Creative Industries Fund NL by Architectuur Lokaal (NL). The portal will continue to develop over time.

Additions and feedback are welcome.