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Last edited 05 Mar 2021
Sustainable refurbishment of commercial buildings
The refurbishment of an existing building must now meet rigorous and legally-enforced minimum energy efficiency standards, as sustainability continues to force its way up the agenda. But the impact of environmental measures can no longer be viewed in isolation: the way that green building design and fit-out interacts with policy, finance, finance, tenant relations, staff wellbeing and broader community issues defines ‘good’ environmental management of a building today.
Research carried out among European real estate industry professionals reveals that more than three-quarters of commercial buildings have a sustainability strategy, which is increasingly interlinked with business objectives. These include preventing obsolescence, exploiting tax incentives and simply creating a ‘quality building’ which has market appeal. Buildings lacking such a strategy are viewed by many as an investment risk.
- The FTSE EPRA Global Real Estate Index.
- The European Association for Investors in Non-Listed Real Estate Vehicles (INREV).
- The Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change.
- The Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark.
There is also substantial evidence that companies seeking to attract and retain the new generation of skilled workers regard a sustainable building as an important element in their brand and corporate identity.
 What form do the most effective refurbishments take?
Here’s a checklist that can be used to check for quick wins:
 Heating and air conditioning
- Upgrading boilers to more efficient models.
- Insulating hot water cylinders.
- Installing a weather compensation system.
- Reducing thermostat deadbands to prevent heating and cooling working simultaneously.
- Introducing controls such as individual room thermostats or thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs).
- Checking air supply and extract systems are being operated in line with specification and installation details.
- Installing heat recovery units to allow for the transfer of thermal energy.
- Using high performance mechanical systems (including high efficiency chillers, boilers, and thermal heat recovery from the floors).
- Upgrading insulation to roofs, floors and cavity walls.
- Retrofitting external insulation/ cladding to solid wall construction.
- Addressing draughts.
- Changing to LED or CFL technology.
- Maximising the use of daylight, where necessary combined with passive solar shading to reduce the need for air conditioning.
- Utilising dimming lighting controls and PIR systems to allow lighting levels to be adjusted according to external daylight.
- Introducing motion sensors and adjusting timings on existing sensors.
- Introducing solar panels (both photovoltaic and solar thermal), biomass boilers, and air or ground source heat pumps.
- Introducing more nature in the form of green walls and roofs, views of natural landscapes and internal planting.
- Measuring and monitoring data on energy savings and indoor air quality and evaluating its effectiveness.
As it is increasingly acknowledged that customer and staff wellbeing is affected by the sustainability of the building in which they operate, sustainability in property is becoming synonymous with quality. And that is good news for both people and the environment.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Ecobuild 2016 - Making the business case for large scale retrofit investment.
- Energy efficiency of traditional buildings.
- Home Energy Masterplan.
- How to deal with retrofit risks.
- National Refurbishment Centre.
- New energy retrofit concept: 'renovation trains' for mass housing.
- Renovation v refurbishment v retrofit.
- Retrofit, refurbishment and the growth of connected HVAC technology.
- Retrofitting solar shading.
- The Each Home Counts report and traditional buildings.
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