By Harry Gray
In 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C. It called for ‘rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society’ to reduce the risks of increasing climate change. But where can we start? What can we do now to make a difference? It seems overwhelming when you begin to think about how much our current way of life must be reformed. However, making a change at the individual level is possible and changes to our homes are a great place to start. Why? A recent article from The Times reveals that an estimated 40 percent of our carbon emissions are linked to the built environment. Moreover, a study backed by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has found that cooling systems and air conditioning account for almost one tenth of electricity consumption in the UK. If we can reform where we live and work, we are well on our way to reducing emissions and preventing climate catastrophe. But how do we change our living and working environments and what steps can we take? Retrofitting might be the answer.
What is retrofitting?
Fundamentally, retrofitting is the process of changing features of buildings or structures to make them safer or better suited for a particular purpose. This often involves adding new technology or features, although it may also mean changing or updating the existing features of a building for a particular purpose. Mostly, retrofitting has been used as a strategy to reduce a structures vulnerability to damage from natural disasters or seismic activity. However, new forms of retrofitting are becoming increasingly available. For example, Ecofit is a trending form of retrofitting which involves using natural fibre materials (rather than synthetics) to retrofit a building as these have a lower environmental impact and are easier to recycle. Many of these natural replacements also are more breathable, preventing the lock up of moisture in a building which aside from providing a cleaner air environment, reduces the houses risk from damp damage. Some may also choose to adopt what has been referred to as a ‘fabric first’ retrofitting which focuses on improving the thermal properties of a structure and making changes to insulation and air tightness. There are also many other types of retrofitting methods in existence that suit different budgets, buildings and preferences.
Why should we retrofit?
Wouldn’t it make more sense to knock down our existing building structures that are producing emissions and replace them with newer, greener, more efficient structures that are better suited to deal with climate change?
No! We should not, for two main reasons. Firstly, retrofitting can be put into action much faster than building new constructions. For example, a report by Preservation Green Lab found that a new building that is 30% more efficient than the average building takes 10 to 80 years to overcome the negative climate change impacts resulting from construction. It’s quite clear from the science that radical action must be taken now and we haven’t got much time to lose!
Secondly, another great reason to retrofit is that it is considerably more cost-effective than other methods of transforming the residential sector such as building new cities and homes to live in. Often retrofitting will involve adjustments to certain aspects of the home such as installing a more efficient boiler, improving the insulation of homes and businesses or adding better insulated windows to the property. These changes, aside from being quick, are almost always a cheaper alternative than knocking down a construction and building again from scratch. Retrofitting technology is also rapidly expanding, getting cheaper and easier to install.
How can you go about getting retrofitted?
This is where Climadapt can help. We can provide homeowners, tenants, individuals and corporations with Climate Adaptation Assessments (CAA’s) which make suggestions as to how you might better equip your home, workspace or business to adapt to the impacts of climate change. How do CAA’s work? We draw upon and interpret a range of complex data sources: satellite images, spatial analysis, government and local authority reports, indicators and indices, together with the detailed information you provide. We bring this all together to create an assessment that sets out the key areas you need to be prepared for, and the solutions that are available.
If you want to take action to adapt to the impacts of climate change and reduce your carbon footprint, there is no better place to start than retrofitting your home.