Renovate or Rebuild? The pros and cons

By Christophe

This is a decision facing many people looking to create their ideal home: should they renovate an existing building or knock it down and start again? There are many factors to consider, not least cost, design potential and sustainability.

We’ve pulled together some of the key considerations in the renovate or rebuild debate to help you reach a decision. Each project is unique, but common factors exist.


This is a consideration we take very seriously at TAS Architects. Although starting from scratch allows you to build a highly energy efficient home, renovating an existing building could save a considerable amount of embodied carbon – the carbon generated by constructing it, including all materials and transport. It also reduces waste.

It’s very easy to focus on the performance of a building and forget the environmental impact of creating the building in the first place. In an ideal world, we’d be able to reuse everything.


If you knock down a building and build a new one, the project’s labour and materials costs will be exempt from VAT. If you renovate an existing building, you will pay VAT. This can make it difficult to make a decision based on environmental factors.

Overall, whether it is more cost effective to renovate or rebuild depends on more factors than tax. Demolition costs can add up, but so can the cost of stripping down a building to its bones in order to renovate.

Carrying out a full survey that breaks down both options is a good place to start. As well as overall outlay, you need to consider project viability. Even if you’re aiming to build a home to live in forever, you may want to consider whether its potential final value is greater than what you will have to spend to create it.


Gaining planning consent for a new building can be costly and time consuming. Often, if you’re replacing a building you are likely to gain planning permission for a building of a similar size, but you’ll need to consider materiality.

Considerable renovations, such as a large extension, will still need planning permission. You may be restricted by the extent to which you can add to the original footprint of a house. Unless a property is listed, however, you can make as many internal changes as you need to.


If you’re building a new home you can make it your own. You will have a blank canvas – up to a point. The design will still need to work with the local area. You’re unlikely to gain planning permission for a design that is too overbearing and impacts neighbouring properties.

When renovating, you may be restricted by the skeleton of the existing structure. On the other hand, original features may add the character that you’re looking for. You can build on what is there to create something new.

As this article demonstrates, the decision on whether to renovate or rebuild lies in the delicate balance between cost, environmental impact and how to create the end result you’re seeking. Get in touch if you’d like to talk your project through. We can support you in making the best decision.

Tags: Architectural process, Construction, Design, Planning

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