“Retrofit Put to the Test” by Gale’s Brian H. Neely, AIA, CDT, NCARB and Joshua T. Hogan, E.I.T., was published in the April 2014 issue of Durability & Design.
Across the United States, buildings in which people live, work, shop and study use about $200 billion in energy each year. That’s a significant portion of the nation’s energy-use and carbon footprint. While the energy efficiency of new buildings has improved dramatically over the past two decades, many older buildings remain substandard in meeting insulation and air-infiltration requirements.
Buildings older than 20 years comprise more than 70 percent of our building stock. Improving their thermal performance offers a great opportunity to conserve energy. A variety of energy upgrades are available for these buildings.
Energy conservation isn’t the only reason for retrofitting buildings. Retrofits are often more cost-effective than constructing a new facility. Upgrades can extend building service life, increase asset value and contribute to a healthier, more comfortable environment for occupants.
Upgrades can save money, reduce emissions, and provide investment opportunities and jobs.
Existing and retrofitted buildings went head-to-head beginning in 2012 when a New England university began a phased, three-year-upgrade of the building envelopes of three identical, energy-inefficient dormitories. The project’s goals included extending the service lives of the buildings and improving energy efficiency, durability and aesthetics, while reducing maintenance requirements.
The work provided an opportunity to measure the change in air infiltration and thermal transfer in the exterior walls, from existing to retrofit. Testing revealed where airtightness was improved by as much as one-third, and where future retrofits might focus.