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Refurbishing a tower block is not a cheap process. In the past people have often decided that it would be cheaper to blow a block up that redevelop it. But in many cases this is no longer an option and it’s certainly a huge waste of resources to do so.  

This guide is here specifically to help people who are planning to refurbish. It should help decide priorities and also help develop a rough overall budget.  There are of course many variables depending on the scale of refurbishment, the need to decant and rehouse residents, the size of the block, etc. Some basic refurbishment (such as a new coat of paint in common areas) can be done at very low costs, but this is unlikely to make much overall difference nor to contribute much to sustainable development.

Most people will only consider major refurbishment if there is already some funding available. This is most likely to come as part of a regeneration programme, most probably as part of the Government’s Neighbourhood Renewal work. All such funding is managed by the ODPM – the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, a large government department which covers all regeneration and local government work, and has developed the ‘Sustainable Communities’ plan. There are a range of linked websites, accessible from www.odpm.gov.uk. 

The challenge for sustainable refurbishment is to find money over and above the bare minimum.  Much of what is seen as ‘exemplary practice’ within this website does cost more than doing only the bare minimum. However these improvements are likely to have long-term benefits, and some of these will accrue to the landlords as well as to the residents. Good security, for instance, has been repeatedly shown to have a big impact on vandalism. 

Ways to bring in extra funding may include: 

More money from the landlord

If a project is really going to be innovative and exemplary, then the landlord may invest in it. They are likely to need clear evidence of the long-term benefits. 

More money from residents

It is quite common for rents to rise when security is improved, especially with a concierge. Experience shows that if people believe that things will get better they will accept such rises, but they will need to trust those doing the refurbishment to deliver. 

Money from other sources

This covers many possibilities and will often relate to specific pieces of work. Improving surrounding green spaces may attract funding from charitable trusts that support environmental work; basic crime prevention work can sometimes be funded by local; ‘community chest’ style bodies.

It the residents are well organised with a formal association or TMO they may be able to access funds that landlords cannot. An example of this might be the Big Lottery Fund (the main grant-giving part of the National Lottery). The residents will need to see how any money they raise is used specifically for their chosen purposes (as will the funders) and they may need some advice and support in fund-raising. 

Funding from such sources also depends on the criteria of the funders. For example the Big Lottery Fund looks to fund projects that help deliver four key outcomes:

Outcome 1:  People better able to contribute to their communities through improved life skills.

Outcome 2: More people actively involved in their communities and able to make a difference to their local areas.

Outcome 3: Enhanced rural and urban environments, which communities are better able to access and enjoy.

Outcome 4: People and communities more physically active and better able to make healthier eating choices.

A bid from a tower block  would fit with outcome 3 but will do better if it can also show that it will help getting people more involved in managing the block (outcome 2) and if they develop new skills as a result (outcome 1).

There are also some specialist environmental funds for greener buildings, notably those linked to work to minimise CO2 emissions. If the refurbishment is planning a major energy efficiency programme then these should be followed up.


Project partners:           | Price Myers: Sustainability |Battle McCarthy | Architype | STBI | Franklin Andrews |            


Copyright 2004  Price & Myers Sustainability                                 last updated: 11/25/11

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