Bringing empty homes back into use could potentially contribute to the government’s pledge to slash carbon emissions by 78 per cent by 2035.

Around 50,000 buildings are demolished in the UK each year, generating 126 million tonnes of waste, and that figure shows few signs of decreasing. The charity Save Britain’s Heritage, for example, says it has never been busier trying to save historic buildings from demolition; with sizeable areas of cities such as Coventry, Grimsby and Worcester currently scheduled for demolition.

Writing in The Times, Will Hurst, managing editor of the Architect’s Journal, says that the situation is a “national disgrace”, adding that the planning system is contributing to the problem; with VAT charged at 20 per cent on most refurbishment work, but at zero on much new-build construction.

If ministers are serious about building back better and taking a sustainable approach, he adds, they should take a firmer stand on encouraging the reuse of existing buildings wherever possible.

With this in mind, the Architect’s Journal has launched a campaign entitled RetroFirst, voiced by architect and broadcaster George Clarke, which takes the approach that the greenest building is the one that already exists.