The Environmental Benefits of Renovating vs. Building a New Home

As a matter of definition, families tend to grow as time goes by. Nearly all families at some point face small challenges related to providing comfort to all members as new arrivals come. Some of these are relatively small in terms of cost and effort, such as the size of the refrigerator or the amount of grocery shopping that needs to be done. A larger consideration might be the size of the car, as once a nuclear family passes beyond having 3 children a ‘people mover’ is required. Probably the largest challenge that is faced by growing families is the size of their living quarters.

Once a child comes into the house which will make the number of children exceed the available rooms, we become aware

Image: Salvatore Vuono /

of this problem. Certainly, young children can share a bedroom for a while but in most first-world countries this becomes a little weird after a certain age. At the very minimum you want the child to have their own room before puberty arrives.  So, with these obvious social norms in mind, we must decide how we are going to expand our family home.

Not Clearing Land and Scarring the Earth

One option could be to build a new house or move in to an existing house. From an environmental standpoint, building a new house is a fairly dramatic activity. Firstly, we’re settling land by clearing it of vegetation and possibly (certainly) displacing animals from their homes. Remember that the settled portion of the land overall will have a large impact on the balance of nature. Those asking how this could be a factor could perhaps look at Google Earth to see satellite imagery of the world, or even just near where they live. Developed land looks substantially different to untouched land. From the satellite image it looks like scarring, and there’s a lot of it. It’s hard to argue that this is not of significant impact to the planet.

Moving into an Existing House?

On this note, we could simply ask if it would be less of an environmental impact to move into an existing house. Well, not really. The only time this would be less of an impact is if a family would be moving into a house that was underutilized, and the occupants of the larger house were moving to a smaller existing house (such as the one the family had moved away from). This is a less common case however, as how often do we see empty nesters (the most likely candidate for a downsizing of their house) living in the same house they raised their children in until they are physically incapable of living there. As a general rule moving to a new and larger house is forcing the construction of a new house somewhere else.

Renovation as an option

This brings us to the consideration which is renovation. By renovating a house to give it extra bedrooms we are effectively increasing housing density and combating urban sprawl. Timber, bricks, concrete and other building materials are still used in a renovation, but the material cost of building extra rooms is still significantly lower than the construction of a new house.

A final consideration and a great one, is an attic conversion. Your attic can be converted into a living and luxurious space, that could fix your accommodation needs. There is minimal construction work required compared to the construction of new rooms, and adds significant value to your home. It’s also much better for the environment and better for your wallet. It’s another great case where environmentally friendly is also wallet friendly, and a win for everyone.

This article promoting environmental awareness is brought to you by the team at, a leading Australian provider of attic conversions. If you enjoyed this article you may also want to read The Top 5 Green Reasons we should all be living in high density housing.


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