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How to retrofit buildings to support sustainability and Net Zero agendas

It is estimated by the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) that as many as 70% of the UK’s non-residential building stock was constructed before the year 2000, and that the national 2050 Net Zero targets will require significant retrofits in the near future. This is a necessity if we are to achieve the required energy efficiency and reduce embodied carbon in our built environment to the required levels.

This urgent need will require us to increase the pace of retrofitting commercial real estate rapidly. In accordance with the aforementioned Net Zero target the Paris Agreement commitments and your corporate ESG strategy, demand for sustainable buildings is surging among occupiers, owners and investors.

However, this goal cannot be achieved without collaboration across the sector to meet this goal, and JLL estimates that the rate at which we are retrofitting existing stock needs to increase to approximately 5% of all buildings every year.

This will have major implications across all building sectors, and stakeholders will have to adapt quickly. For example, the UKGBC believes that the pace of retrofitting office buildings needs to at least double from what it has been over the past decade if we are to achieve the required 59% energy usage reduction in that sector.

What is ‘retrofitting’?

The meaning of retrofit in the context of buildings is where you design and install new systems for existing buildings in order to achieve energy efficiency improvements, reduce energy consumption, improve the building’s environment or layout, and much more – all without having to demolish and start again.

  • Motivations for retrofitting a building can include:
  • An organisation’s desire to reduce their carbon emissions
  • Improved comfort, health and wellbeing for occupants
  • Reduce energy bills
  • A circular economy approach encouraging “retrofit first”

Retrofitting can include a whole range of measures to help a building achieve those goals, both large- and small-scale. These can include:

  • Replacing old lighting solutions with modern LED Lighting
  • Controlled heating and domestic hot water (DHW)
  • Installation of renewable technologies such as PV solar or air source heat pumps
  • Installation of battery storage to help manage energy load variations effectively
  • Metering and monitoring systems, along with sensors, to understand, control and reduce energy usage
  • Improved security and fire safety technology

 What are the benefits of retrofitting a commercial building?

As mentioned previously, the main purpose of retrofitting a commercial building is reducing operational carbon emissions through the installation of modern smart technology, such as networked metering and monitoring systems and the automated control they enabled.

By installing totally connected technology in your existing building, you can achieve practical control and eliminate energy wastage immediately by identifying inefficiencies and removing them. This will cut your bills straight away at the same time as improving environmental impact.

Furthermore, once this network is implemented as part of the retrofit, you can install other technologies on it which improve aspects of your building beyond its energy usage. For example, the same network can also include smart access controls, fire safety measures and other security equipment which improves the experience of the occupant and can be controlled by the same cloud-based BMS.

Finally, the process of retrofitting comes with other related benefits. The nature of retrofitting, rather than demolishing and rebuilding, means that you are reusing what is already there rather than extracting further materials from the earth as is the case with new buildings. This reduces embodied carbon and promotes the circularity of construction materials - a key factor in any asset that aspires to be fit for the future and low carbon.

All of the above factors combine to create a retrofitted building which has increased social value and improved long-term appeal to both occupiers and investors. More than ever, smart buildings which are future proofed for the era of climate change are the only buildings that are desirable to stakeholders of all kinds.

How can you retrofit your building?

Intelligent Building Group (IBG) is a PropTech company that helps property owners and investors create sustainable, totally connected, and future-proof buildings.

Through the integration of various SMART building technologies; these properties run at their optimum efficiency, helping clients along their managed route to Net Zero Carbon as part of a wider Environmental Social Governance (ESG) strategy. We also offer high-level security systems that can sit on the same network, including fire safety, CCTV, access control, and intruder alarms which we design, install and maintain.

These technologies are modular and open-protocol, and include the tools that property experts need to ensure that the efficiency of their buildings is optimised.

Want to learn more about the meaning of retrofitting and how you can retrofit your buildings using IBG technology? Get in touch with the team today by clicking here.