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How to make energy-efficiency renovations great again?

Published on
July 19, 2020

The European Commission has stated that 40% of all energy produced in Europe is used in buildings, accounting for 36% of CO2 emissions. Just by looking at these numbers, it is clear that even though buildings use quite a lot of energy, it is greener than the average MWh used in Europe. However, digging deeper into the numbers, we find that 75% of real estate in Europe uses energy inefficiently and only 0.4-1.2% of the buildings are renovated each year.


This means there is great unused potential for reducing energy consumption (and therefore CO2 emissions) within the building sector. However, the progress so far has been scarce and needs to pick up the pace moving forward. One of the reasons why there is relatively little done in regards to making buildings more energy-efficient might be the unclear return of investment period for various renovation activities.


One of the most traditional renovation practices - renovating the facade of the building is deemed a relatively secure investment. However, it typically has a very long return of investment period. On average, the ROI period is around 12 years. Furthermore, renovating only the facade of a building can lead to indoor air quality problems inside the building, since projects don’t take into account the natural ventilation or the arisen need for mechanical ventilation. 


Replacing the heating, ventilation and air conditioning units and actuators has a shorter payback time of around 6 years and normally improves the indoor air quality at the same time. However, adopting new systems into the building maintenance process is often time-consuming. It can be difficult to fit new systems into the existing system and it could require a lot of rebuilding. 


The shortest payback period, however, is for an automation retrofit project. ROI has proved to be around 3 years for these kinds of projects. What is more, an automation retrofit normally also gives a good overview of other shortcomings in the building, meaning that the owner can start to make data-driven decisions for other renovation activities.


Nowadays, there are a lot of ways to reduce the investment amount for an automation retrofit furthermore:


  1. Utilizing the up-and-coming IoT ecosystem. Various wireless sensors and actuators are not unproven technology anymore. For example, installing wireless radiator valves can help to save a lot on installation, plus it doesn’t disrupt the normal operation of the building.
  2. Smart integration controllers often allow to leave some or all of the existing automation hardware in place (as they normally are completely functional), but configure and control them remotely in real-time.
  3. Remote configuration allows the important parts, such as configuration documentation, of the retrofit to take place behind a computer in the office, not in the dark technical room or on the roof. This results in more efficient use of labor and better documentation.

Retro-fitting can make our buildings more energy-efficient in many ways. It doesn’t require a big pile of money to take the first steps towards healthy people, efficient energy use and remote access to the automation hardware. You can contribute to a greener future already today by upgrading your building's energy performance.

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