Green Building – Retrofitting

The era of global warming and climate change has indeed dawned upon mankind. Everywhere one looks today, governments and institutions are tinkering on different aspects of everyday life to see if there are still aspects of human life they can change, develop and alter so that it can integrate itself as part of the bigger collective action plan versus the worsening of the global warming and climate change scenario. Talk about leaving no stones unturned, professionals are even looking inside and every corner of houses and buildings – literally – to see if they can convert it into something more eco-friendly.
This is the general idea of green retrofitting and passive house design. Professionals believe that it can contribute to slowing the global warming and climate change through it s potential to impact the lessening of greenhouse gas emissions coming from homes because of excessive and unchecked energy consumption. It would seem that passive house designs and green retrofitting is the answer in how buildings and houses should be built in the future, especially with the promise of how these approaches guarantee effect reflected in energy efficiency and renewed building approach (Murphy 7).
This is important because as Katrin Klingerber, a professional architect, put it, being able to save money through energy efficient houses is not the big picture but a small picture; the bigger picture is that saving energy and energy efficient processes is an important aspect of mankind’s (and Earth’s) survival in the next few years because of the threat of global warming and climate change (Murphy 7).

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James explained in his article about green retrofitting and the awareness of the importance on going green and more eco-friendly that the consciousness to be more eco-friendly now resonates in every corner and aspect of human life from media communication to professional process outlooks and perspectives (James 1). This paper will discuss the aspect of green retrofitting with focus on passive house design and approaches. The document entitled “Climate Change 2007: Synthesis Report Summary for Policymakers” tackled many important points.
In this 22-page document downloadable in PDF form, important inputs on climate change and global warming and related action and concerns as discussed in the 2007 IPCC Plenary were reflected, broken down into several important sections of discussions (Climate Change 1). After a brief introduction, the first important major discussion was about climate and what was considered as observed changes and the effects of these changes in climate (Climate Change 2). The main section of the discussion was broken down into smaller discussion focusing on several different aspects like the discussion of climate warming and its indicators.
The increase in temperature in different regions of the world and how its effects are reflected in both the continent, the oceans and the rate of emergence of the impact and effect of the change in climate on the environment, both human and natural. The following major topic was also important. It was focused primarily on the discussion on the causes that allows the change to be possible in the first place, including greenhouse gases and the result of the increase of particular gases in the atmosphere over the last few years and anthropogenic warming.
These discussions were followed by the projected features of climate change, as well as the projected impacts of this global phenomenon. This was followed by the discussion of possible actions to mitigate the effect and the possibility of adapting through actions and through accepted limitations in the situation. The article was concluded by a section entitled “Long term perspective” which discussed other issues on global warming and climate change that are characterized in the long term basis, like future action plans and other predicted and unexpected changes and turn or events, etc (Climate Change 18).
The thrust of the report is focused, generally, on the results of the current assessment made by professionals about the current situation globally of global warming and vis a vis projected action plans, impacts, rationale, justification and projections in the short term and long term future in consideration with the degree of what would be accomplished in the action plan and the projected scope of impact this action plan has on the state of global warming and how external factors would react to actions and changes. This report is very much connected to and significant to the discussion of building retrofitting in some ways.
This is because green building retrofitting and passive house retrofitting is very much an integrated aspect in global warming, climate change and energy efficiency efforts by governments. The report is about the current state of global warming and climate change the planet is experiencing. The recent development and changes about this problem and actions that can be recommended, be taken as a response towards climate change and global warming (essentially, actions which professionals hope can stop, slow down or impact global warming and climate change in a way that is considered a ‘development’ in its positive sense).
Professionals involved inside the circle of builders, engineers and architect believe that green building retrofitting is one of the ways in which this particular industry can help contribute positively to the efforts geared at slowing down the effects of climate change as it hits the world. The implications stated in this report, as well as the suggested action plans and projections, can and will affect green building retrofitting. It may even require the participation of the green building retrofitting option as part of the collective effort towards shifting to procedures that are more eco-friendly.
While green building retrofitting was not discussed in the report, green building retrofitting efforts and the proponents of this effort should consider this particular document as something important for their cause. This is a significant literature which the proponents of green building retrofitting can use when they design short term and long term action plans involving generally green building retrofitting and see how this action “fits” in the overall scheme of things involving addressing global warming and climate change problems and concerns.
Governments and institutions have, time and again, reminded the public, that actions to address the global warming and climate change problems are found in various levels and the different sectors of the society, can all devise different ways and can contribute in many different ways so that this problem is effectively addressed and resolved. In this particular industry among builders, engineers and architects, green building retrofitting is just one of the many courses of action that they can take.
The action can be more fine-tuned if policy makers in this circle are exposed to the information and input provided in the document Summary for Policymakers. Another important significance of the document with regards to efforts at retrofitting is the discussion of the document on anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions and how this is related to retrofitting. The production and release of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions is affected largely by the practice of energy consumption by consumers and individuals inside homes and buildings. Retrofitting is involved in this aspect.
This is because retrofitting actions are geared towards creating an environment and set of new capabilities at home via mechanical, electrical and other installations that can ultimately help consumers reduce energy use and record energy savings. In the process, it can also contribute towards the lessening of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere. Ploss explains that water heaters and heating apparatus and fixtures in different countries like European countries is the cause of at least one third (1/3) of the national CO2 emissions.
Every time retrofitting efforts indicate that the energy use and consumption can decrease because of retrofitting, then emissions that contribute to climate change and global warming are decreased (Ploss 2). Before going deeper in the analysis of building retrofitting and green building retrofitting, it is first important to discuss: what is retrofitting and passive house retrofitting; why and how it can transform as an eco-friendly approach and why and how it can, eventually, contribute to the collective action geared at solving the problem of global warming and climate change.
Retrofitting, in the simplest sense, is an act of giving something, an upgrade or feature development, especially if something was already existing and new technologies and policies required the installation or changes in the features which it previously did not have or somehow lost due to use and wear and tear. In the cases of buildings and houses, retrofitting is essentially about adding features or making changes in the features so that the house or building is deemed more suitable, safer and in accordance with any policies requiring retrofitting.
There are retrofitting efforts so that buildings can be more earthquake resistant especially since some of the technologies are developed just recently; while many buildings today are erected ten or even thirty or fifty years ago, and the building/house in need of the new feature. When it comes to environmental consideration, retrofitting usually focuses on passive house retrofitting. This is about redesigning houses and buildings or putting in new features so that the house or building is more eco-friendly (i. e.
possessing characteristics that makes it capable of conserving energy, etc). Passive house retrofitting is not only about making changes in erected houses and buildings. It is also about designing houses and buildings to be erected in the future which are eco-friendly largely through the process by which the house or building requires lesser and lesser energy for cooling or heating needs of the infrastructure. This results to lesser energy consumption and lesser emissions that contribute to global warming and climate change.
Ploss noted how retrofitting was tapped to maximize houses and buildings and make it more energy efficient and be less of a contributor to global warming (Ploss 3). Because of this, retrofitting has become significantly important and several different governments designed action plans. Retrofitting can be achieved and the results of this action reflect in the earliest possible time. Retrofitting is important largely because it is an environment-friendly approach towards retrofitting a house or building. The concept of retrofitting is important because houses and buildings can be improved so that energy efficiency is attained.
In many countries including the US, there are many houses which are poorly-built, in relation to the assessment of its ability to maximize its potential for energy efficiency. Like in the case of the United States particularly in the San Francisco Bay Area, houses and buildings there are kept in its existing state because the people believe that its rustic or aesthetic value is important (Nahan, Polk 1); not knowing that efforts to retrofit the building or house can make it more energy-efficient and, at the same time, contribute to the efforts to ward off the impact of worsening global warming and climate change.
Houses and buildings, where people live and work, require the presence of energy and the process of consuming energy. This results to the emission of greenhouse gases like carbon emissions which are dangerous to the environment and contributes to the worsening of global warming and climate change.
Beckett mentioned how UK homes was the source of twenty five percent of the overall carbon emissions, which in turn, contribute to global warming and climate change, adding that if this is addressed through retrofitting, Beckett hopes that in 2050 homes and buildings and its use of energy resulting to carbon emissions would be a thing of the past because of the use of energy efficient materials, processes and styles (Beckett 49). Retrofitting is an important story. This is one of the ways wherein housing and building can help in staving off global warming and climate change.
One of the most common features of human life anywhere in the planet is the place of abode, a house, or even buildings and structures where people stay permanently or temporarily. Because house and buildings are found everywhere, changing how these things perform and function in a way that it contributes to the welfare of the environment presents a huge and big impact considering how many houses and buildings there is today. If one retrofitted house or building yields lesser use of energy, imagine how much energy is saved if the number of houses and buildings retrofitted multiplied.
Imagine the potential for decreased greenhouse gas emission as a result of more and more retrofitted houses and buildings. If one school like Lakeland Elementary School experienced reduction in natural gas consumption to up to 50 per cent compared to its previous, pre-retrofit era consumption (James 9), imagine the extent of natural gas consumption cuts would result if more schools like Lakeland Elementary School underwent retrofitting processes so that the building becomes environment-friendly and energy efficient.
Imagine this situation and expand it side by side the breadth and depth of houses and buildings and the extent of the impact of change in energy consumption and release of greenhouse gases because of more efficient consumption and one would have a clearer picture on retrofitting and why it is an important story. Prior to the consciousness of individuals about eco-friendly actions and the need for such eco-friendly actions, different processes like manufacturing and building put less importance on how the actions will later impact the environment.
But with the significance of the idea of actions that are eco-friendly, people soon realized that there are also options and courses of actions wherein the impact of action will have lesser capability to threaten or harm the environment. Because of this, actions that are eco-friendly are developed across different industries and the building industries also created its own set of eco-friendly approach. One of these action plans is the option for green retrofitting of buildings and passive house retrofitting. This particular approach is now widely popular in Europe.
According to Ploss, passive house/building design and eco-friendly retrofitting designs and approaches resulted to the creation of 2,000 passive houses in the last ten years in Austria alone (Ploss 4). Its neighboring European countries are not far behind since other European countries are also joining the move to support and endorse passive house design (which, incidentally, was developed by a European country too). According to Ploss the governments of Germany and Switzerland are looking at positive developments emerging in the creation and growth of passive house design and green building/house retrofitting.
The growth of the consciousness was attributed to efforts of scientific and professional groups that advocate passive house designs; one of which is the PEP initiative or the Promotion of European Passive houses (Ploss 4). Because of the importance of passive house design and green building retrofitting, it was not exclusive to Europe and was also embraced by other countries like the US. Today, there are groups and efforts in the country to promote passive house, like the Passive House Institute for US (Murphy 1).
Several European countries have applied practices and approaches towards achieving the goals of green building retrofitting and the creation of passive house / passive house design. One of the broadstrokes for this is the creation of the E-Retrofit Kit distributed among several European countries. Global warming and climate change is largely affected by the use and consumption of energy. Energy production processes (i. e. coal burning, heat from energy sources, processing energy sources and raw materials, etc) contribute to climate change and global warming (E-Retrofit Kit 4).
If actions can curb energy use reflected through marked energy savings made by communities, then it contributes to the lessening global warming and climate change factors. In this perspective, green retrofitting of buildings and conversion / creation of passive houses showed how it can contribute to the actions geared at addressing global warming and climate change. For example, the Passive House Retrofitting (PHR) approach made by European countries registered a recorded energy savings as a result of the retrofitting efforts, the biggest savings recorded by Lithuania at 172 kWh/m2 annually.
This is followed by Austria, The Netherlands, Denmark and Spain, which translated in recorded savings made in Euros by families affected by the PHR program. This indicated that PHR programs can contribute in saving energy, cut down energy costs and eventually help the environment cope with the problems posed by global warming and climate change (E-Retrofit-Kit 4-5). There are several observers and analysts who would agree that building and house retrofitting, especially eco-retrofitting, will result to energy savings which in turn will make an important contribution in global warming and climate change.
Ploss in fact, believes that as high as 90 per cent energy savings can be recorded if policies in passive house retrofitting in particular are followed diligently by everyone involved in the industry (Ploss 1). Beckett spoke about retrofitting for the UK audience which she hopes would respond positively to her talk about retrofitting and its effects and positive contributions – energy efficiency, jobs and savings. This can be as high as ? 300 annually which can be provided by a well retrofitted house and something that a family can use especially with recession and its impact still felt by individuals (Beckett 39).
Ploss noted that efforts of retrofitting and the use of passive house design in several European areas yielded positive results, considering the shift “very good”, particularly as how it was experienced in Austrian, German and Swiss locations (Ploss 10). Observers came to this conclusion because of the developments experienced by the individuals living and residing in retrofitted passive houses/buildings, vis a vis, the energy efficiency of the house/buildings. These developments included thermal comfort and air quality, not to mention a cut on costs for energy (Ploss 11).
In the US, one example is a passive house design used in the creation of a house in Yellow Springs which, expectedly, created a house with energy efficient features and lower energy bills (Murphy 2). There are several buildings like schools in the US that underwent green retrofitting. One of these is the Lakeland Elementary School in Ohio. After the retrofitting of the roof and ceilings, the average monthly savings in energy costs was pegged at nearly $1,500 for nine months, an important cut on the use of natural gas (which was pegged at 47.
26% natural gas consumption reduction) which was realized through green retrofitting approach (James 10). In the last few years, green retrofitting processes for buildings and houses, as well as passive house designs have generated positive reactions from governments. Many governments and institutions are making a move towards these options so that the community can become more energy efficient, can pay lesser energy costs and, above everything else, can help in the global effort to combat global warming and climate change.
“Green retrofitting of houses” is a welcome idea in England. British politicians and policymakers, like George Osborne, are actually pushing for the creation of financial assistance schemes to help the people in making their homes more energy efficient post green retrofitting actions, with proposed financial grants going as high as ? 6,5000 (Henley 1). Margaret Beckett, in her February 2009 speech in the Royal Society of Arts in London, also spoke about retrofitting, the possible government plans and projections and the most basic retrofitting actions on every UK home by 2015.
Five years later, the projection of marked improvement in the retrofitted houses pegged at an estimated seven million homes and ten years after – 2030 – the government is hoping every home has already enjoyed retrofitting of their homes through what Beckett describes as “cost effective measures” (Beckett 12). Works Cited Beckett, Margaret. The Green Changing Rooms: Retrofitting the existing housing stock. February 2009. 17 May 2009 <http://www. communities. gov. uk/speeches/corporate/greenchangingrooms>. “Climate Change 2007: Synthesis Report. Summary for Policymakers. ” IPCC Plenary XXVII. November 2007. 17 May 2009
<http://www. ipcc. ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar4/syr/ar4_syr_spm. pdf>. “E-Retrofit-Kit. Tool-kit for Passive House Retrofit. ” Intelligent Energy Europe. 17 May 2009 <http://www. energieinstitut. at/Retrofit/Dateien/Startseite/E-RETROFIT-KIT-Publishable-Report. pdf>. Henley, Will. “Tories propose massive green retrofitting programme. ” BD Online. April 2009. 17 May 2009 <http://www. bdonline. co. uk/story. asp? storycode=3138652>. Mark, James. Going Green With Retrofit Metal Roof Systems Shows Proven Results. February 2008. 17 May 2009 <http://www. designandbuildwithmetal. com/Columnists/Writers/mark_james_2_11_08.
aspx>. Murphy, Pat. “Promoting the passive house – a report on the 3rd annual North American Passive House Conference. Published December 10, 2008 by Community Solutions. ” Energy Bulletin. 12 December 2008. 17 May 2009 <http://www. energybulletin. net/node/47457>. Ploss, Martin. Passive House retrofit: taking it easy. April 2008. 17 May 2009 <http://www. renewableenergyworld. com/rea/news/article/2008/04/passive-house-retrofit-taking-it-easy-52023>. Tahan, Nabih and Polk, Christopher. “First U. S. Retrofit to Passive House Standards. ” Home Energy Magazine. November-December 2008 17 May 2009

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