They don’t make buildings like they used to – head to some of the older American cities and you’ll see what we mean. Despite their age, those brick-and-mortar buildings stand strong after hundreds of years in some cases. National landmarks like Harvard University and the White House are still standing today. But that isn’t to say these structures and similar ones have been unaltered in their long histories.
“Architects and city planners take time to retrofit their old landmarks with new systems in order to preserve them for generations to come.”
As much as old architecture techniques can yield sturdy structures, many of those buildings lack the best insulation systems, exterior coatings or moisture barriers. As a result, living or working in those spaces can be uncomfortable. Additionally, the exposed brick or cement will ultimately succumb to the corrosive properties of air, dirt and water. Not only that, but inefficient buildings are more expensive to maintain and have a bigger carbon footprint than their modern counterparts.
That’s why architects and city planners take time to retrofit their old landmarks with new systems in order to preserve them for generations to come. There are new, powerful techniques by which builders can strengthen existing buildings through non-invasive means – protecting the building without making significant alterations.
Exterior cladding proves an effective energy reduction tool
When most people consider building retrofits and energy efficiency, solar panels and modern boilers might be the first things that come to mind. While those methods are effective – albeit costly – exterior insulation and finish systems are simpler and could offer similar benefits.
Improvements to building envelope, lighting systems and other non-invasive changes can reduce a building’s energy consumption by as much as 60 percent, according to Sourceable. These findings, reported by the Energy Star Portfolio Manager Study, “[challenged] a longstanding misconception that building efficiency can be defined by the presence of efficiency equipment.”
Through the use of state of the art finishes, high performance claddings and exterior wall systems architects can greatly impact building performance without a massive overhaul.
Retrofitting to play a major role in NYC efficiency efforts
Back in September, New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio announced an ambitious goal on the heels of his election: an 80 percent reduction in the city’s carbon emissions by 2050, reported the New York Times. Such a drastic improvement cannot be realized in any one area, but building retrofit is shaping up as an important step in the journey. The sheer number of buildings in New York City represent ample opportunities to reduce energy consumption, as it is unlikely that each one is outfitted with the latest in building wrap and modern facades.
Just by retrofitting its own buildings with retrofits including insulation and better heating systems, the city believes it can save $180 million per year on energy by 2025.
“I met earlier with a large number of developers who know that this is the direction we have to move in,” Jeffrey D. Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, told the New York Times. “The city has taken on a bold initiative. It’s the right one and it’s achievable. The mood in New York … is ‘Let’s get on with it.’ “