Practicing ArchitecturePracticing Architecture
AIA Retrofit Guide Takes Energy Efficiency Renovations Further
Investors, building owners, and policymakers are increasingly aware of the economic and environmental benefits of making the U.S. building stock more energy efficient. This attention has led to the development of a nascent but fast-developing market for energy retrofits of existing buildings, potentially representing hundreds of billions of dollars in reduced waste and potential profit. As of today, the energy retrofit market accounts for about $20 billion of economic activity per year. The great majority of this retrofit activity occurs in public and institutional buildings, and is performed by energy services companies that specialize in equipment replacement. This equipment-based approach generally achieves moderate energy savings, but having the expertise of architects can take it further.
Organizations such as the Rocky Mountain Institute, New Buildings Institute, and the AIA have shown that greater energy savings, often as high as 50 percent, can be captured using a design-based holistic approach in which all the interactions in a building’s systems, including its basic programming and envelope, are considered for optimal performance. Retrofits of this type, known as deep energy retrofits, have the potential to be a new and robust source of business for architects—especially good news for a design and construction industry still struggling to get up to speed as the effects for the Great Recession slowly wear off.
“Deep Energy Retrofits: An Emerging Opportunity,” co-published by the AIA and the Rocky Mountain Institute with contributions from the GOVERNING Institute, makes the case for architect-led deep energy retrofits and introduces architects to the process skills and financial knowledge they need to access this large (and largely untapped) market.
Although the deep energy retrofit process relies on strong collaboration between the design team, contractor, and building owner, there is still a need for a team leader to ensure that the project reaches its goals. Architects are suited for this role, for many reasons. Architects are:
Besides introducing architects to the retrofit market, the guide explains how energy efficiency–related skills such as energy modeling are integrated into the project delivery process of a deep energy retrofit, providing architects with the resources they will need to begin acquiring these specialized skills. Additionally, the guide acquaints architects with basic financial knowledge, including available incentives and financing methods that they can use to help clients access capital for deep energy retrofit projects.