A Guide to Basic Retrofit
The Self Build industry leads the charge in the quest for sustainable solutions. Modern construction methods continue to rise in popularity, the Passivhaus standard spreads across Europe, and the incentives for building your dream home are becoming more apparent.
Despite this, the cost of building a home from scratch still scares self-builders and can even turn them away from the process entirely, but there are more ways than one to create a sustainable home.
Retrofitting, a process of upgrading or modifying existing structures to improve energy efficiency and environmental performance, has emerged as a key player in the quest for a greener future. Is retrofitting the surefire solution to creating a sustainable and energy-efficient environment? Let’s find out!
WHAT IS RETROFITTING?
Retrofitting involves a significant improvement in the thermal performance and comfort of your home and also works to improve the fabric of the building. This could be focused on one room or the entire building.
This is more than just a simple renovation, which typically involves aesthetics alone. Retrofitting results in a deeper intervention within the building fabric and systems.
A retrofit works to improve your home’s energy efficiency, with the overall goal of lowering energy bills and making homes warmer and draft-free.
As well as helping you save money in the long run, energy efficiency improvements to your home will reduce your carbon footprint, too.
At a basic level, retrofitting often results in either partial or overall substantial home improvements, such as
- Improvements to the insulation and airtightness of walls, floors and lofts
- Improving ventilation
- Better performing replacement windows and doors
- Installation of renewable heating, hot water and lighting systems or more efficient systems
THE IMPORTANCE OF RESEARCH BEFOREHAND
Before diving into a retrofit project, conducting thorough research and a house assessment are crucial. Gain an understanding of the specific needs of your home, explore the latest technologies and materials, and familiarise yourself with local building codes and regulations.
Take the time to gather information on reputable and experienced professionals who would help you in achieving your goals, as well as approved retrofit coordinators in your area. Knowledge is your greatest ally in ensuring that your retrofit project is well-informed, well-executed, and delivers the desired benefits.
A well-researched approach will not only save you from potential pitfalls, but will also empower you to make informed decisions that align with your goals and budget.
To evaluate your home’s energy efficiency, a set of tools can be stylised to provide the assessment to enable you to form an upgrading plan and decide which improvements are most advantageous. A thermographic survey is a good example, which helps establish the insulation quality and identifies where air can escape from.
DOES IT ADD VALUE TO MY HOME?
Yes, retrofitting has the potential to add significant value to your home. Beyond the immediate benefits of upgraded systems and features, potential buyers often find a retrofitted home more attractive. Modern, energy-efficient enhancements and safety improvements can make your property stand out in the real estate market. A well-executed retrofit can also contribute to a higher resale value, making it a sound investment for homeowners.
As you will be required to obtain an EPC certificate when selling your home, this document will make the energy performance of your dwelling transparent. The EPC will include the performance rating and the potential energy costs, therefore aiming for your improvements to reach the highest rating will mean that the buyer does not need to invest any further and will be making immediate savings on the energy bills.
WILL IT REDUCE MY BILLS?
One of the key advantages of retrofitting is the potential for cost savings. Energy-efficient upgrades, such as improved insulation, high-efficiency HVAC systems, and energy-saving appliances, can considerably reduce utility bills over time. While the upfront costs of retrofitting may seem substantial, the long-term financial benefits and the positive environmental impact are a consideration for homeowners, particularly if you’re planning to stay in the property for the foreseeable.
WHAT WOULD I NEED O DO TO MY HOME?
The specific retrofitting needs of your home will depend on your goals and the existing conditions of your property. Common retrofitting measures include:
Energy Efficiency Upgrades: Installing energy-efficient windows, upgrading insulation, and using energy-saving appliances.
Safety Enhancements: Adding features such as smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and seismic retrofitting for earthquake-prone areas.
Technological Integration: Incorporating smart home technologies for improved security, energy management, and convenience.
These are completely dependent on your retrofitting needs. A ‘Deep’ retrofit would cover the whole house and use a variety of measures to achieve improved energy efficiency. If this is your top priority and you’re willing to go the extra mile, look no further than EnerPHit.
WHAT IS AN ENERPHIT?
EnerPHit is a standard developed by the Passive House Institute for retrofitting existing buildings to meet the high-performance criteria of the Passive House standard. EnerPHit sets demanding performance criteria for energy efficiency, airtightness, and thermal comfort in retrofit projects.
While achieving the same rigorous standards as new Passive Houses may be challenging in retrofit scenarios, EnerPHit establishes realistic and ambitious goals for improving the energy performance of existing buildings.
Like the Passive House standard, achieving EnerPHit certification involves a rigorous verification process conducted by the Passive House Institute. The certification confirms that the retrofit project meets the established criteria for energy performance and comfort.
HOW MUCH WILL IT COST?
The cost of retrofitting varies widely based on the scope and complexity of the project. Small, targeted retrofits may cost £2000 – 3000, while more extensive renovations can cost tens of thousands due to the increased area.
Developing a realistic budget and prioritising upgrades based on your goals is essential. Remember that the long-term savings on bills and a potential increase in property value can offset the initial costs over time.
WHO CAN HELP ME WITH THIS?
Retrofitting your home often requires the expertise of professionals. Depending on the project’s scope, you may need to consult with the following professionals.
Architects: Architects play a crucial role in the initial stages of a retrofit project. They work closely with homeowners to understand their goals and vision for the retrofit. Architects assess the existing structure, identify opportunities for improvement, and provide a comprehensive plan that aligns with the homeowner’s objectives. This plan includes detailed drawings, specifications, and a roadmap for the entire retrofit process. Architects also ensure that the retrofit complies with local building codes and regulations.
Contractors: Contractors are responsible for executing the physical modifications outlined in the architect’s plan. They are skilled professionals overseeing construction, renovation, or installation processes. Contractors work with various subcontractors and construction workers to ensure that the retrofit is carried out efficiently and according to the design specifications. They manage the project timeline, coordinate deliveries of materials, and address any unforeseen challenges that may arise during construction.
Energy Consultants: Energy consultants specialise in evaluating the energy performance of homes and recommending upgrades to enhance efficiency. For retrofit projects focused on energy savings, these professionals assess the current energy usage, identify areas of improvement, and propose solutions to make the home more energy efficient. This may include recommendations for insulation, HVAC systems, lighting, and renewable energy sources.
Passive House Designer: If you’re taking the EnerPHit route, a qualified Passivhaus designer can both support and certify your project. AC Architects is proud to host an in-house Passivhaus design service for those interested in meeting the standard.
Home Inspectors: Home inspectors play a crucial role in ensuring that the retrofit meets safety standards and compliance requirements. They conduct a thorough inspection of the property to identify any issues that may pose safety risks or violate building codes. Home inspectors provide a detailed report to the homeowner and may recommend corrective actions to address safety concerns or compliance issues.
Retrofitting is a valuable investment that can enhance your home’s functionality, increase market value, and lead to long-term cost savings. By carefully planning your retrofit project, seeking professional guidance, and considering the specific needs of your property, you can embark on a journey to transform your home into a more efficient, modern, and valuable space.