Soon after Neil Elkes’ article in the Post showing an attractive alternative: The Paradise Circus plan which retains Birmingham Central Library came the news, which will be deplored by many, that Birmingham Central Library will be demolished. At a seminar organised by the Friends of the Central Library, alternatives were put forward, one being Steve Beachampé’s proposal to retain the Ziggurat alone.

There was great interest in the alternative master plan (left), drawn up by architect Joe Holyoak and Rob Turner, of Eatarchitecture. Mr Holyoak said that the Argent developers’ masterplan is excellent – the only fault to be found is that it does not retain the library. Several good alternative uses were proposed one being a ‘Tate Modern’. Artist Margaret Braithwaite pointed out the potential of the six floors high atrium and the internal openings two floors high for displaying art and sculpture. She said that the library’s low ceilinged areas – like those in the Guggenheim – could display drawings and etchings.

The first compelling reason 

The first compelling reason to be mentioned here was powerfully articulated by consultant Martyn Park, a resident of Central Birmingham, who – like many – sees the library as an enormous asset not least for the financial and environmental cost resources involved in construction.

In Architecture Week, Susan Smith pointed out that a lion’s share of the pollutants that cause global warming are attributable to ‘new-build’. American architect Edward Mazria calculates this share at 46% of U.S. carbon dioxide (CO2) output. Cement making alone is estimated to be responsible for 7-10% of global CO2 emissions.

Will Councillor Bore and his cabinet renege on this commitment?

In July last year the International Business Times reported that Birmingham had exceeded its CO2 reduction target with a 155,059-tonne cut in CO2 emissions, surpassing the 130,000-tonne target set, by taking measures including the installation of energy-efficient lighting at Cadbury’s Birmingham site and the NEC, beginning to renovate the city’s street lights and fitting solar panels on 167 of the Bournville Village Trust’s properties.

“Look at carbon consequences of demolition!”

New-build is carbon intensive and demolition carries many wider environmental impacts, including air pollution and disposal of waste materials. As the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) realises, it is important to concentrate on refurbishment because there is so much “embedded energy” in existing buildings that, no matter how energy-efficient a new one might be, there will be a net carbon loss in knocking it down and replacing it.

Penny wise and pound-foolish – are differential VAT rates skewing the  strategic decision?

As a DCLG Committee has pointed out, differential VAT rates may in some circumstances make the demolition and reconstruction more financially attractive than its refurbishment or renovation to a higher environmental standard.

Mr Park: “No local authority has the (moral) right to commit this environmental vandalism!”

The second compelling reason to be posted next week will find favour with the prudent – and be more appealing to environment sceptics.

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