This month, Energy Assessor Katherine Piper attended ‘The Cinderella of Sustainable Building Projects’ event, a Low Carbon South West networking and information event regarding retrofit and refurbishment. The benefits of refurbishment were presented, with case studies from Integral Engineering Design and Stride Treglown Architects.

The presentations and subsequent Q&A session are summarised below.

Grant Stratton, Director of Integral Engineering Design highlighted the fact that as buildings become more efficient and operational costs reduce, the importance of embodied carbon in a building is becoming a more important part of the carbon equation. As opposed to new builds, where one needs to factor in the embodied emissions of any new materials, the refurbishment of buildings has the advantage that the majority of the material and therefore the embodied carbon has already been accounted for and the refurbishment is bringing about an increased operational efficiency and reduced carbon emissions and associated costs.

Grant Stratton went on to acknowledge that there are some challenges that need to be overcome when it comes to the refurbishment of buildings, however with effective team working and planning these can all be addressed.

Often, there is a lack of information about the makeup of the building to be refurbished. Gleaning information from building control, the building operators, historic maps, archive information and photographs, in addition to the use of point cloud surveys and investigative work, can all assist in ascertaining the required information and ultimately can save a lot of time and money.

Collaboration around issues such as load capacity with realistic, open and sometimes challenging conversations about the feasibility of some design aspirations is important.  Such a collaborative approach with the client, the design team and service engineers will ensure that the building design meets everyone’s aspirations, operates successfully and has the low carbon impact required of any future building design.

Tristan Rhodes, Divisional Director at Stride Treglown Architects went on to highlight the changes that have been seen in relation to occupier demand over the past 10 years. Against the backdrop of political (Climate Change Act 2008) and regulatory (Part L of the Building Regulations) changes and an increasing prominence of wellbeing standards, he has seen a requirement from clients for much denser occupancy space alongside a more holistic, considered approach to break-out spaces within commercial buildings. 

The attractiveness of refurbishments designed ‘in the spirit of’ BREEAM, SKA or WELL Standards are reflected in the rental values of commercial buildings with some buildings nearly doubling their rental amount per square foot. An increased asset value, reduced operating costs, improved occupier wellbeing standards and significantly reduced carbon emissions all compound to make a very compelling case for the refurbishment of buildings.

Written by: Katherine Piper, Energy Assessor, Darren Evans Assessments.