A national building retrofit campaign for existing buildings to make them more energy efficient is critical if the UK is to hit 2050 net zero carbon targets, new research from WSP has revealed.
A survey of over 100 built environment experts including leading architects, property developers and public and private sector building administrators, showed that over half consider ‘energy efficiency and decarbonisation’ as the most important outcomes for the retrofit of buildings, with only ‘safety and security’ ranking higher.
With 80% of the buildings required in 30 years’ time having already been built and almost half of the UK’s carbon footprint coming from the built environment, retrofitting existing buildings should be a major priority, says the report.
Smart buildings are key
The report calls for an ambitious national retrofit campaign – as well as energy efficiency improvements, including upgrades to insulation and thermal performance; better electrical and heating appliances; and more effective building management systems.
Most survey respondents believed that innovative technologies will deliver the biggest efficiency gains on retrofit projects in the near term. As well as renewable energy, Internet of Things (IoT) and smart devices were predicted to offer the biggest performance gains.
The report noted that efficiencies can be gained ‘by empowering occupants to save energy by monitoring their usage in real time – for example, allowing them to only heat or light spaces they’re in.’
As a smart building system specialist, BGES has seen first-hand the benefits that can be achieved by enabling HVAC and lighting systems to work intelligently with a how a building functions. For example, our VISTA tool is delivering significant energy savings by adjusting HVAC and lighting in line with real-time occupancy data, live weather forecasts, energy tariff data and building operation trends.
Retrofitting for wellbeing
The research – and our own experience – shows there can be wider benefits to retrofitting buildings too. “A high-quality retrofit makeover – that includes insulation, renewable energy and internet-connected devices – can cut costs and improve people’s wellbeing,” says the report, pointing to the health benefits of improved ventilation and temperature control.
The survey reveals that 67% of sector professionals are confident their retrofit projects have significantly improved occupants’ wellbeing. Some 55% of survey respondents agree that the improved operational efficiency and increased productivity of occupants justifies the money needed for refurbishment, versus 25% who disagree.
The report comes at a time when governments and businesses are galvanising action on climate change. “It’s time to open a new chapter in UK construction. The buildings we have are here to stay – so let’s be ambitious and thrust retrofit to the forefront of our thinking,” says the report. We welcome its findings, and urge built environment professionals to explore the untapped opportunities for efficiency through smart technology.
Get in touch with BGES if you’d like to know more about how we can help to make your building as efficient and intelligent as possible.