BGES explains: What is Earth Overshoot Day, and why are building retrofits key to the solution?

On July 29, humanity will have used nature’s resource budget for the entire year. That’s according to Global Footprint Network (GFN), an international sustainability organisation who name it ‘Earth Overshoot Day’. Since the initiative began, Earth Overshoot Day has moved up two months, and 2019 marks the earliest date ever. 

It’s going to take collective, decisive action across a range of areas to reverse the trend, but GFN rightly earmarks energy retrofits of existing buildings and industrial processes as one of the key areas for action.

Since much infrastructure is already built, and a large portion of it will last for decades to come, it’s crucial that we focus on existing building stock and what can be done to improve efficiency. In Europe, buildings account for about 40% of total energy consumption and are responsible for just under 40% of total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Retrofits identified as a ‘high-leverage opportunity’

Researchers from Global Footprint Network teamed up with Schneider Electric to assess the impact of retrofitting existing buildings and industrial processes. They found that the energy retrofit and the decarbonisation of electricity generation combined would move Earth Overshoot Day forward by 21 days — 15 days for the retrofit opportunities alone.

The improvements included addressing intermittent occupancy levels (such as putting controls on idle mode when hotel rooms are unoccupied); using CO2 sensors to better control temperature and air quality; optimizing heating by occupancy level; controlling ventilation with CO2 sensors; opening and closing blinds to leverage the sun for free natural light and heat, or to keep heat out.

The study found that applying such active energy efficiency results to buildings across Europe would allow for a 40% reduction of the building sector’s total final energy consumption, amounting to a staggering 16% reduction of Europe’s overall energy bill.

The conclusion was clear- retrofitting is a burning opportunity that we cannot afford to miss.

Added benefits

At BGES, we’re vocal advocates of the potential for improving the performance and efficiency of buildings through intelligent building control technology. And the benefits don’t just amount to carbon reduction: improved comfort levels, lower energy and maintenance bills mean that investment in energy efficiency can deliver real benefits to a company’s bottom line.

We’re determined to play our part in decarbonising the UK’s building stock for future generations. If you’d like some advice about how we can help your business reduce its carbon footprint, get in touch. Or read about how we are helping our clients to drive down energy use.