How to retrofit a building for energy efficiency

Half of the UK’s carbon footprint comes from the built environment. Rising energy costs and growing pressure to reduce this footprint have forced many businesses to change their ways.

Firms occupying older buildings are turning to retrofitting to make them more sustainable and energy efficient; according to a report by WSP, 51% of built environment experts see this drive towards energy efficiency as the most important outcome of retrofitting old buildings. However, many of them also believe that progress has been too slow.

How do you retrofit a building?

Retrofitting starts with performing a thorough assessment of a building and all its existing systems. You need to determine whether your heating, lighting, insulation and water systems are operating at optimum performance, which will help you determine what improvements need to be made, and also allow you to make more inexpensive adjustments to existing systems rather than a costly root-and-branch overhaul.

However, even larger-scale retrofitting needn’t be a major operation. You can make relatively simple renovations such as replacing existing windows with high-performance alternatives that retain heat or dampen outside noise. In some buildings, you can even assess whether potentially wasteful heating and ventilation systems are necessary at all, as opposed to natural air flow.

Installing efficient lighting fixtures, wall insulation, and roofing materials are also ‘easy wins’ that can make a significant difference to a building’s energy efficiency.

You can also go one step further, and install smart sensors to evaluable occupancy patterns, measure daylight and ambient temperature to manually or automatically alter heating and lighting levels according to time of day and current room usage. This will reduce excess energy usage and create a more comfortable environment in which to work.

What are the benefits of retrofitting?

Retrofitting a building for energy efficiency can result in significant cost savings by reducing energy demand. This is especially true for buildings with older HVAC systems: according to Italian energy-environment service company Officinae Verdi, HVAC accounts for about 40% of the energy costs of a typical commercial building, so reducing that burden can make a substantial difference.

There’s a tangible effect on productivity, too. Installing systems that remove moisture from the air, regulate temperature and improve airflow can create a healthier, happier—and yes—more productive workplace. You can therefore reap the dividends of better workplace wellbeing and employee health.

More importantly, retrofitting helps protect the environment. With the climate emergency becoming more urgent, one of the easiest and most effective things any company can do is retrofit their properties for energy efficiency, installing smart heating and lighting systems and reducing dependence of fossil fuel-derived power.

Retrofitting, therefore, is a win-win-win situation.

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