Although practical examples have already proven that the energy consumption of existing buildings could be significantly reduced with proper renovation methods, three-quarters of the building stock in Europe are still energetically outdated.
The main objective for renovating existing buildings is to make them a realistic alternative to new construction in terms of energy efficiency. Fortunately, we now have all the tools at our disposal! Yet, in Europe, the deep renovation of the building stock is only 0.2% annually, even though this would result in 50-80% energy savings.
A large-scale renovation of the existing building stock would also be necessary, as a renovation can not only improve the quality of life of building users but also reduce emissions and energy dependency as well as promote the reuse of materials.
Cheap, fast, smart
Renovating a building takes less time than building a new one from the ground up. The cost of renovation is also generally much lower compared to new construction due to the existing structural elements. Another advantage is that a renovation is subject to less stringent building regulations than new construction.
Renovation usually involves upgrading heating, cooling and ventilation systems, and installing passive thermal insulation. The hot water supply system and the electricity generation system are also upgraded. But we don’t have to give up smart solutions either! Whether it’s a new build or a renovation, it’s also possible to install intelligent building management. In other words, an existing building can be equipped with all the comfort and safety technology of the 21st century.
In addition to well-being and climate protection, another significant advantage is that by increasing the pace of building renovations, at least 200,000 new jobs would be created in the European Union between 2013 and 2050.
Practice also proves it
B+N Referencia Zrt. has also recognised the growing importance of building renovation in the construction industry. The engineers of the fit-out department are constantly researching the processes and innovations that can transform buildings in need of renovation into buildings with zero carbon emission and cost-effective operation.
The company considers the aesthetic and energy renovation of a total of 200 buildings belonging to 17 Budapest hospitals to be a major success. In the buildings involved in the programme, the cost of energy modernisation will be recovered in 4-5 years, with annual savings of 30% for the institutions.
International and domestic guidelines
The 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change also calls for decarbonization efforts related to buildings. The European Commission has made energy efficiency in the construction sector a priority, aiming for a “climate-neutral” built environment by 2050, with energy-efficient renovation of existing buildings and buildings in need of renovation. According to the recommendation issued in 2019, they want to – at least – double the annual renovation rate in order to renew the existing building stock as quickly as possible.
A similar recommendation has been issued by the American Institute of Architects (AIA), stressing, among other things, the need to prioritise retrofits and renovations over new construction. It encourages the reuse of materials and the incorporation of recycled materials rather than the use of carbon-intensive materials.
The Hungarian government’s National Energy and Climate Plan, adopted on 8 January 2020, also sets out the importance of renewing the country’s building stock with a view to sustainability, energy and cost efficiency. Hungary attaches great importance to the introduction and operation of the Energy Efficiency Obligation System. This will allow a number of measures to be taken to encourage energy efficiency renovation.