Skip to main content

You are here

High-profile retrofits pave the way forward

Retrofit has been the subject of many recent news stories. The BBC highlighted the Non Domestic Retrofit of the Year, Waltham Forest College – an award-winner for a reason. Solid wall insulation, new cladding to the exterior of the building and a heat exchanger for the swimming pool have seen annual savings in energy costs at £127,000 so far.

But with the costs high for such a significant undertaking, anything but such big savings would be underwhelming.  The energy efficiency works at the college are not over yet, though. A combined heat and power system which reuses waste heat will be installed soon, including a centre for engineering to train the sustainable developers of the future.

Interestingly, the architect behind the project says that material change is resulting in a greater energy-consciousness among students and staff at the college:

Now that people see how their run-down building is being cared for again, they're taking far more care over how they use energy."

There are a myriad of reasons why retrofitting conceptually appeals to a wide variety of people: it has a social role in the age of rising energy costs, a strong climate change driver, plus you often get striking aesthetic improvements – complete with before and after photos. There are some other cracking examples of retrofit works completed in 2013 as part of Architects’ Journal’s end of year round-up – well worth a look.

Retrofit can make a real human impact in social housing. Another award-winner is Worsnop House in Colchester, a small 1960s block of flats, won a recent efficiency and innovation prize for a retrofit which included solar PV and thermal panels, to provide increased energy security for residents.

The next important stage for energy retrofitting is to get to a place where whole swathes of buildings are tackled at once, in large-scale operations which deliver deep carbon reductions.

A recent editorial piece in Greenbiz blog makes exactly this case and looks at beating some of the obstacles to retrofit work such as split incentives, where tenants and landlords see different benefits in energy efficiency work, and the quest to make the comfort and reduced running costs of energy efficient buildings as important as qualities such as location and cosmetic features.

Keep reading our blog to learn more from our spotlight on new build projects from around that world that are raising the bar.

Gary Hartley is Energy Saving Trust's expert blogger. He has extensive experience researching and writing on a number of topics, with particular expertise in sustainable energy, policy, literature and sport. As well as providing regular blog content, Gary has also been published in numerous magazines and journals.

Post a comment