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Refurbishment of old buildings for sustainable use

S. Burton and S. Kesidou

FaberMaunsell, Sustainable Development Group, UK

ABSTRACT of non-domestic buildings, even in northern

Europe, is one of the main issues and
REVIVAL is an energy demonstration project REVIVAL contains both naturally and
supported by the European Commission under mechanically ventilated and cooled buildings.
the THERMIE programme. There are six It has a strong emphasis on architecturally
demonstration sites in five EU countries. important buildings and how changes can be
Ventilation and cooling of non-domestic made without damaging the appearance. It is
buildings, even in northern Europe, is one of supported by a THERMIE grant from the
the main issues and REVIVAL contains both European Commission and runs from 2003 to
naturally and mechanically ventilated and 2008.
cooled buildings. It also has a strong emphasis Refurbishment of existing buildings is a
on architecturally important buildings and how neglected area, in as much as most attention is
changes can be made without damaging the focussed on new buildings where there is
appearance. much work on low and even zero energy
The project lasts for five years from 2003 buildings and many high profile
to 2008 and covers design, refurbishment, demonstrations. But in most European cities
monitoring and dissemination. Common there is a vast stock of existing buildings,
Tasks bring all the sites together and include many of which are getting to the end of their
Design Forums, common monitoring useful life. Demolition is an option but the
protocols, CO2 and environmental alternative of refurbishment is starting to be
assessments, design monographs and finally a seen as a more environmentally friendly and
new Refurbishment Design Handbook. sustainable option, for reasons of architectural
REVIVAL will demonstrate how existing value, materials use, neighbourhood
buildings can be refurbished to give good disruption, waste disposal, etc. However old
internal comfort conditions, especially in buildings can use large amounts of energy and
summer, with low energy consumption using a provide poor internal conditions for occupants
mixture of best practice and innovative and generally not meet current requirements or
measures. expectations. Common environmental
problems are high heating demand, poor
1. BACKGROUND lighting, poor ventilation, solar penetration
and glare, poor control of heating and cooling,
REVIVAL is a demonstration project on etc.
refurbishment of non-domestic buildings to Refurbishment to upgrade a building,
improve their energy performance and internal improve comfort or reduce energy
comfort conditions. Ventilation and cooling consumption, can be an ongoing process
whilst occupation continues, or at the other • How do we retain the existing
extreme, stripping the old building back to its appearance of architecturally important
essential structure and rebuilding. The buildings whilst improving energy and
renovation of the REVIVAL building sites comfort?
covers the whole range, from year on year • Can we make changes with occupants
improvements without moving the occupants, in place?
through decanting the occupants to other parts • Is the life cycle CO2 assessment
or adjacent buildings during refurbishment, to positive compared with demolition and
complete renovation of derelict buildings. rebuilding?
In 2006 a new factor comes into play with • For multiple building owners, how do
the Energy Performance in Buildings changes change the overall CO2 emissions of
Directive. With display of energy their buildings stock?
consumption figures in public, and maybe Answers to these and other questions are
some private, buildings, the pressure to being sought in this project and will be
improve the energy performance of buildings brought together in a new version of the
before their normal refurbishment date may Refurbishment Design Handbook at the end of
increase. In addition, disclosure of energy the project in 2008.
consumption data is likely to be required when
a building is sold or re-let and this will 3. THE PROCESS OF REVIVAL
highlight any bad energy consuming building
which may lead to lower rents or sale prices. REVIVAL started officially in April 2003.
REVIVAL offers much needed help in this Each site has survey, design, construction and
area about how to reduce energy consumption monitoring stages, with separate design teams
of existing buildings. answering to different clients. The “Common
REVIVAL has its roots in another project. Tasks” of REVIVAL aim to bring the different
“OFFICE” was an R&D project run by the buildings and their teams together so that cross
University of Athens, which investigated the fertilisation can take place and so that useful
energy refurbishment options for ten office conclusions can be brought out at the end for
buildings in nine European Countries and wider use and dissemination.
compared the effects of similar strategies to “Design Forums” are taking place on each
dissimilar buildings. A Handbook for site, bringing together the project designers
“Energy Efficient Office Refurbishment” was with experts from the REVIVAL team to share
one of the deliverables which was published experiences, investigate differences and
by James and James in 2001. hopefully improve designs. Specific issues,
such as the use of phase change materials for
2. THE ISSUES OF REFURBISHMENT night cooling, are being drawn out of the
Forums for further investigation and the
There are numerous questions to be asked results will be published as a set of “Design
about refurbishment from an energy Monographs”.
perspective: Monitoring of energy consumption before
• Can we reduce energy consumption to and after the refurbishments is required,
current standards? though due to changes in use or derelict
• How can we improve cooling, buildings, modelled pre-refurbishment energy
ventilation and comfort ,without increasing demand will also be used where appropriate. A
energy consumption? common monitoring protocol is being
• How can we make best use of the developed and all results will be compared at
existing structure, e.g. the thermal mass? the end of the project to generalise the
• How can we use the higher ceiling conclusions.
Meetings of all the partners are held every improvements to their existing offices to
six months with visits to the pre- and post- reduce summer overheating and to reduce
refurbishment sites organised at the same time energy consumption generally. In the original
so that all participants can get a real areas of the building, the thermal mass of the
understanding of the issues and solutions building hidden behind the false ceiling,
being used on all the sites.. enhanced by phase change material, is being
A life-cycle CO2 assessment procedure will used as a night cooling system with local fans
be used which is sensitive to the emissions and openings in the windows. Improved
associated with the manufacture of materials, control in the air-conditioned part of the
transportation to site, construction, energy in building together with low energy lighting and
use and maintenance, final demolition and controls is also being installed
disposal of wastes. This will be applied to the In Greece the Ministry of Finance offices in
refurbishment of the existing building and Athens were refurbished some 10 years ago
comparisons made with the reference case of but energy usage is high and internal
demolition and new-build. A general conditions poor for much of the year. A
environmental assessment of the results of carefully designed package of improvements
refurbishment of the buildings will also be are now proposed to improve working
made. conditions and greatly reduce energy
A CO2 stock analysis model will also be consumption. These include external solar
developed, starting with the construction of a shading, some improved glazing, improved
dynamic population model for a group of artificial lighting with photo control, demand
buildings or building stock, taking into controlled ventilation, ceiling fans, a new
account existing buildings, refurbishment, radio controlled comfort control system, night
demolitions and new build.. This will be ventilation, heat recovery and an economiser
tested out with the demonstration site owners. on the cooling system. The building will be
To provide part of the database, a detailed maintained in use as these changes take place.
analysis of the energy use and consequent CO2 The second project in Greece is the
emissions of all activities associated with the refurbishment of a historic hospital building,
refurbishment on one of the large sites (in the KAT hospital in Athens. This hospital was
France) will be undertaken. partly refurbished for the Olympic Games but
Monitoring of the energy use and internal now a further, comprehensive refurbishment
conditions of the refurbished buildings will be package of wall and window insulation,
carried out for at least a year following reducing very high ceiling heights, solar
refurbishment. shading, lighting improvements, and heating
One of the important final outputs of the and cooling improvements, will add to on-
Common Tasks will be the Design Handbook going upgrading of the whole hospital
for energy efficient refurbishment of non- complex, which has to be kept in operation
domestic buildings. This will distil out the throughout the renovation.
technical issues and solutions to problems and At Nantes in western France refurbishment
will cover all energy using aspects of non- of a large secondary school complex is taking
domestic buildings. place. Walls will be insulated some internally
and some externally, windows replaced and
4. SIX DEMONSTRATION SITES provided with horizontal shading devices, new
ventilation and lighting systems with
Six demonstration sites are currently included improved controls, night ventilation and a new
in REVIVAL from five European Countries. air control system on the boilers to cope with
Starting with those which are being reduced heat demand. The work takes place in
refurbished with occupants in place, Stevenage several buildings at different times, so that
Borough Council in UK are making several school can continue during the changes with
decanting from one part to another. It is on figures, not current building standards but
this site that the comprehensive energy use projects aim in all cases to minimise energy
and CO2 audit of the refurbishment process is use by innovative means and thus it is
taking place. expected that the final buildings will have
In the north of the Netherlands, the Dutch lower energy use than an equivalent new
Royal Navy is refurbishing an eight storey buildings built to current regulation standards.
block previously used for housing, for offices. Paybacks on the packages of measures are
The block called the Albatross, which is in a estimated at between six and 22 years but
very exposed location, will be provided with a these figures are notoriously variable. In some
new second skin containing shading, of the buildings the measures taken are to
controlled passive ventilation with variable reduce overheating and improve comfort in
opening vents, low energy lighting and other ways and thus to avoid the installation of
equipment and the block will be connected to more energy intensive equipment. Stevenage
the on-site CHP system for heating. It is is a good example where use of passive and
hoped to provide some PV panels in the roof night cooling measures are being used instead
area. This is a comprehensive refurbishment of installing an air-conditioning system to
of a very visible block and the over cladding combat an existing overheating problem.
with the second skin will change the The other results coming out of the project
appearance of the block and solve many of the will be to provide low energy solutions to
current problems of air infiltration, poor some of the major issues or problems in
insulation and cold bridging. The consultants refurbishment. How to activate the thermal
carried out a comprehensive life cycle mass of an old building whilst not exposing it,
environmental analysis of the various options - using false ceilings and phase change
for the block – from demolition to material. How to provide solar shading
refurbishment – before the final solution was without changing the appearance of buildings
chosen. – internal blinds or blinds enclosed in glazing
The last building is in Florence and is the or carefully integrated external shading. How
complete refurbishment of a historic hospital to install new control systems without internal
office block. A comprehensive package of low disruption – use radio systems. How to
energy measures will be installed including improve daylighting and reduce artificial
double glazed windows with integral shading lighting – control systems. How to insulate
devices and a magnetic sealed operating walls without changing appearances – a
system. This system is very applicable where mixture of internal and external insulation.
solar shading of a historic façade is necessary, In addition the buildings will demonstrate a
but the appearance cannot be changed. Other range of measures equally applicable to new
measures include night ventilation, ceiling buildings, but retrofitted, including adding a
fans, high efficiency lighting with occupancy second skin, using condensing boilers,
and daylight control systems to minimise sophisticated controls on ventilation, heating
energy use, and optimised HVAC systems and cooling, treating thermal bridging, and
with radiant heating and cooling and renewable sources - photovoltaics and solar
sophisticated controls. water heating.


The calculated savings in energy use of the Many buildings cannot be demolished due to
refurbished buildings varies from 40 to 60% their historic and architectural value. Many
with CO2 reductions estimated at between 40 existing buildings waste vast amounts of
and 75%. These comparisons are against energy in use. Many existing buildings give
current or estimated energy consumption poor comfort to occupants. Many existing
buildings have alterations during their active
lifetime. Renovation to improve comfort and
energy consumption is possible in all these
situations. Decisions as to what to do need
careful consideration, and if occupants are to
stay in place during refurbishment, careful
Energy consumption per square metre of a
refurbished building may well remain above
an equivalent new building, designed from the
start for low energy use, but can easily be
50% less than previously. Energy efficient
renovation may not be cheap and simple
paybacks may be long. However decisions as
to whether to demolish or refurbish can be
taken on a life cycle basis and take into
account embodied energy and construction
energy and can consider the effects of waste
materials generated and the demand for new
Energy use of existing buildings is a topic
becoming of greater importance as the Energy
Performance of Buildings Directive comes
into force. Renovation simply to reduce
energy consumption before a building is sold
or re-let may become necessary and the
display of energy use data may stimulate more
energy awareness leading to more action.
REVIVAL will offer much useful experience
in this area.
Much refurbishment of existing buildings
treats them as second grade buildings and thus
little effort is made to bring them fully up to
modern standards of internal comfort and
efficient use of energy. REVIVAL will
demonstrate that properly refurbished office
and other non-domestic buildings can be just
as good as new buildings.