Implementing a roadmap to net zero carbon through retrofit

24.4.23 2 min read

Retrofit blog image

Retrofitting enables building owners and property developers to future-proof their assets through the design of a building, maximising energy efficiency and upgrading the building fabric to reduce carbon emissions.

Dan Coston, Partner in our Commercial Surveying team, shares his thoughts on the future of retrofit, specifically the importance of working collaboratively to ensure we can truly measure long-term value. 

The importance of retrofit

Whether it’s through light touch retrofit - meaning minimally disruptive technical interventions - or ‘deep retrofit’, which requires full building closure to be carried out - retrofitting commercial assets is how buildings are upgraded to operate more sustainably.

What challenges is the industry facing surrounding retrofit?

When it comes to achieving net zero carbon targets across commercial buildings, there is a lot of ambiguity as, without a UK-wide industry benchmark, the way in which we measure carbon varies.

While it’s positive to see forms of retrofit used across the UK’s commercial assets, giving redundant office blocks a new lease of life, we are becoming aware of the lack of an industry-wide strategy as a clear way of measuring the success of retrofit measures.

Without a defined metric that allows owners and developers to understand the impact retrofit has across different building typologies, it’s difficult to understand the long-term effectiveness of these design upgrades.

We need to weigh up the overall carbon and cost impacts in equal measures when retrofitting, to ensure we’re making the most appropriate building changes in the quest for more sustainable commercial assets.

How can we improve the future of retrofit?

The implementation of a toolkit that works on an individual asset level which sets benchmarks surrounding net zero carbon (both operational and embodied) would set a level of consistency that can be applied across building typologies, making the road to achieving carbon targets more transparent across the industry.

We need to understand the financial implications of retrofit measures, and how much they save over the lifespan of a building, to allow building owners to take a comprehensive long-term view of assets and ensure the best approach to optimise efficiency for years to come.

Energy and carbon impacts are now widely understood across the industry, and so we need to turn our focus to the challenge of circularity in construction and refurbishment. The principles of the circular economy can help significantly in reducing wastage by considering the whole lifecycle of buildings and keeping retrofit cycles at the centre when planning building works.

It's key that the industry takes a joined-up approach and works collaboratively to implement change whilst navigating the complexities of retrofit. Once we have a level of consistency across the industry, only then can we begin to truly demystify carbon targets and work to realise effective solutions to achieve net zero carbon for a more sustainable future.

Dan has recently joined the UK Green Building Council’s Commercial Retrofit Task Group, representing Bidwells amongst a group of investors, architects, and developers in a project aiming to explore the carbon and cost effectiveness of retrofitting commercial assets.

“I’m enjoying collaborating with experienced property experts in the UKGBC’s Commercial Retrofit Task Group, each bringing unique insight and perspective into the future of retrofitting with real life examples and look forward to continuing the discussions.”

Exploring a range of existing retrofit measures used across commercial assets to achieve net zero carbon, the findings from the UKGBC Commercial Retrofit Task Group will be published later this year.

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Dan Coston

Partner, Building Surveying

A natural problem-solver with an adventurous heart, Dan rolls up his sleeves with no preconceptions, and gets stuck into the most convoluted projects.

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