Germaine Greer

Germaine Greer has been at it again, prodding conventional thinking. This time she says old houses in the Scotland need to be knocked down and rebuilt sustainably because the building fabric is too poor to be retrofitted. And she makes a case for high rise. Following is her article published in Scotland’s Sunday Herald. Do you have a response? Please send it to editorial@thefifthestate.com.au

–  Now that Britain has become a property-owning democracy like Australia, the major part of its wealth is locked up in bricks and mortar, which is mad. Regardless of silly house prices, decaying housing stock is a steadily depreciating asset that will depreciate even faster when new and essential regulations about energy efficiency come into force. At present, three-quarters of the Scottish housing stock falls below the Scottish Quality Housing Standard. Half of it does not satisy the seven out of 10 energy standard. The solution is not to tart it up, but to knock it down.
With the best will in the world, we cannot make existing housing energy efficient; it’s not just a matter of insulating cavity walls and lofts or triple-glazing. In Scotland 382,000 dwellings are affected by dampness and condensation, which has more to do with the original building material and construction methods than with a lack of insulation. Installing central heating can only make the situation worse, especially as so many houses are under-occupied.
The majority of Scottish dwellings are each occupied by a sole individual – in 2006, the figure was 809,000, more than a third of the total housing stock, and that figure grows every year. “Since 2001, the number of one-person households in Scotland increased by 8 per cent; by 2031 one-adult households are projected to increase by almost one half.” So says the Registrar General. And yet all the projections for new towns are for three-storey three-bedroom dwellings stacked side by side like books on a shelf.
Most of the people living alone in Scotland are old women, like me, but the percentage of men is also rising. The last thing any of us needs is a cold, damp house built round a staircase. That staircase is very likely to be the thing that shatters our mobility and sends us into care; most admissions of old people into nursing homes occur in the aftermath of a fall. If you add in the disabled, it’s rather more than a third of the Scottish population that needs less house and more services.
The easiest way to keep us safe and comfortable is to house us on a single level one on top of the other. The richest people in the world choose to live in high-rise buildings, and yet in Britain the very idea evokes utter misery and deprivation. Why? Because British high-rise buildings were mean, the facilities inadequate and the services non-existent. Read more>>>