A Sustainable Recovery With Deep Energy Retrofits
Economic recoveries historically involve a high level of carbon emissions. With deep energy retrofits, we can return to an even better normal.
As the world begins to emerge from the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic with an eye towards economic recovery, climate change may appear to have receded from the public consciousness. While there have been short-term gains made in reducing global carbon emissions, we know that these are not significant nor sustained enough to achieve the goal of limiting temperature rise to 1.5°C.
In a previous article, we examined and analyzed post-pandemic projections for carbon emissions, concluding that the reduction in emissions due to quarantine and lockdown measures still do not get us to our global targets.
It is critical, then, that the path to recovery be considered with the climate in mind. This fact has been acknowledged by many global governments who have linked stimulus funding to initiatives and companies that can demonstrate contributions to reducing carbon emissions. With over $10 trillion of stimulus already committed worldwide, there is a great opportunity for positive movement on carbon reduction. The buildings industry in particular is poised to play a significant role in this effort.
Initiating Deep Energy Retrofits
Deep energy retrofits consider the building asset as an integrated whole, upgrading all systems together to minimize on-site energy usage and improve overall performance. The common adage that “the most sustainable building is the one you never build” applies here to renovation and restoration projects. Work on existing structures commonly involves less emissions and waste than new builds.
Entuitive’s deep energy retrofit process to achieving a carbon-neutral building typically starts with a review of the benchmarking and energy usage breakdown for the building, identifying key challenges that must be addressed. We then generate various models to reduce, re-use, and use energy more efficiently in the building, iterating until the predicted total energy consumption on a year-to-year basis is below the anticipated possible renewable generation.
Leveraging design stage energy models, we also simulate what the response of a building will be once all active systems have been shut down. In this way we can evaluate a design for both thermal autonomy (the fraction of time that a building maintains comfort conditions without active conditioning) and passive habitability (how long a building remains habitable without active conditioning).
Strategies for such a whole-building upgrade might include the incorporation of regionally located, low-emissions or recycled-content material; structural and building forms that address environmental temperature and building services, such as the design of vertical spaces to draw heat and air out of a building; or proper detailing of air and thermal barriers to control air movement and ensure the energy efficiency of the building envelope, ultimately reducing loads on HVAC systems.
A Post-COVID, Post-Carbon Future
The low-carbon renewal of existing buildings will and should be a focus for the post-COVID future of the construction industry. As a leader in the industry, Entuitive has conducted research studies to understand the key considerations for developing high-performing buildings that will ensure future climate resilience and sustainability. Ongoing studies address methods of generating future climate data and contrasting statistical manipulation against simulations to better quantify projected temperature increases and their impact on energy use.
Entuitive is committed to creating a better, more sustainable built environment. Rejuvenating the economy and the buildings industry after the pandemic will require thoughtful energy and performance considerations, ensuring that we don’t repeat history with a spike in emissions. Performing deep energy retrofits on existing buildings is a great place to start.
For more information on deep energy retrofits, reach out to Emily King and our Sustainable Performance Group.