Building Retrofitting Gathers Momentum As A Fundamental Enabler For Decarbonization

  • Blog
  • Smart Buildings

Building Retrofitting Gathers Momentum As A Fundamental Enabler For Decarbonization

It is well documented that building construction and operation are the largest global contributors to energy-related carbon emissions, at around 37% of end-user emissions. It is also commonly accepted that about 80% of the buildings that will exist in 2050 have already been built. This, therefore, highlights the colossal role that energy-efficient retrofits will play in the journey towards net-zero in 2050. However, progress in this area has been slow, hindered by project economics that don’t always make sense or landlord strategies based on holding the assets with minimal interventions. The International Energy Agency (IEA) rates that buildings are not on track to decarbonize by 2050 and points to the challenging intermediate goal that energy consumed per square metre in 2030 must be 45% less than in 2020.

To tackle glaring energy inefficiencies in the built environment, organizations and governments are releasing guidance and funding to help landlords and tenants retrofit their real estate. On May 4th, the UK Green Building Council released a retrofitting guide for commercial buildings to define common approaches to commercial retrofits and highlight successful case studies. In March, the US Department of Energy announced $32 million of funding for next-generation proof of concept retrofit projects that improve energy efficiency whilst reducing tenant disruption. Governments are also stepping up regulation to push building owners towards retrofit and break the cycle of landlords and tenants throwing the ball back at each other. The UK government will require every commercial building to have an energy performance certificate (EPC) from 2025 and has proposed that all properties achieve at least a B rating by 2030. In 2020, the EU published its Renovation Wave strategy, which aims to double annual energy efficiency renovation rates by 2030. The New York City Council passed Local Law 97 in 2019, requiring all buildings over 25,000 square feet to meet new energy efficiency limits by 2024 that become stricter in 2030.

Real estate, facilities and sustainability directors are on the front line to operationalize net zero ambitions and drive action at the building level. To run successful decarbonization and retrofitting strategies, firms must consider the wide range of technology options available today. Innovation in the smart buildings technology sector is moving at record speed, driving competition between vendors to offer low-cost and high-value solutions. To avoid being left behind, firms need to leverage advances in IoT and analytics alongside more cost-effective offerings to improve the efficiency of their real estate. There are now multiple smart building solutions that offer a measurable return on investment, many within energy management and efficiency. For example, demand-controlled HVAC can support energy savings of up to 50%, alongside indoor air quality improvements; networked lighting systems with LEDs can deliver energy savings of 50%; predictive energy analytics have demonstrated annual energy savings between 10% to 20%.

To learn more about net-zero buildings and decarbonization, sign up for Verdantix Net Zero and Climate Risk Strategy research.

Ben Hext

Industry Analyst

Ben is an Industry Analyst in the Verdantix Smart Buildings practice. His current agenda covers hardware and software solutions for energy management, on-site power generation, and COVID-19 mitigation management. He holds an M.Eng in Mechanical Engineering from Durham University,