Sustainable BuildingsRetrofittingRetrofitting and Energy Efficiency Projects

Retrofitting and Energy Efficiency Projects

Karl Dickinson
Karl Dickinson
Change matters. It takes courage. As a writer - and citizen - I am inspired by stories of those who challenge the 'we've always done it this way' attitude. We can do better - it's time to listen to those who go against the grain.

With climate change being so high on the agenda, it’s not surprising that there is a range of retrofitting projects testing out various measures, innovations, technologies, and tools for engagement to see how we can make buildings climate-friendly and future-proof. In Europe, at least, plenty is going on. Here’s an introduction to the most striking projects around, past, and present.

European Projects


This project applies EnerPHit principles but takes a gradual approach, retrofitting new measures gradually over time, as sometimes seen in shallow retrofits, to see if it would achieve a better quality of efficiency.


Sets out to demonstrate how European historic buildings can be retrofitted to improve energy efficiency whilst conserving their heritage aesthetic and cultural value.


Passive House Regions with Renewable Energies was established to explore how Near Zero Energy Buildings can be established widescale throughout Europe with renewables placed at the heart of the project. Practical application helped define what constitutes NZEBs and how to successfully implement retrofits with constantly improving technologies for better performance. It took place in 11 EU countries. Access the project report here.

REMOURBAN (REgeneration MOdel for accelerating the smart URBAN transformation)

Initially applied to 3 European cities to test the difference enhancements in smart technology development and energy chains could make in the move to decarbonise and improve living quality. Also funded a secondary project: a collaboration between Dutch company Energiesprong and public authorities and construction firms in Nottingham and Maldon in the UK and Hem in France.


Combating the dilemma that deep retrofits are often more expensive than predicted and the low level of public understanding of renewables generation. This project looks at “robust and reliable technology concepts and business models” and methodologies “for triggering deep renovation of residential buildings in the EU”.


This is a unique one: imagine industry powered with biofuel. Well, BIOFIT is examining ways to make it a reality, using case studies of factories retrofitted with bioenergy technology to see what works best among different industrial sectors and how best to engage stakeholders.


Launched by the EU, this project is developing prefabricated building envelopes that, when installed, will provide active and passive energy efficiency improvements. Its specification is to be lightweight, versatile, cost-effective, and easily replicable in order to assist scaling.


Focusses on residential units in apartment blocks. Supporting awareness-raising for residents and landlords to aid decision-making; facilitating better-coordinated supply channels; and forming new governance models to connect agents of supply and demand.

Bridging the gap between lack of knowledge of sustainable renovation works and definitive action with accessible examples of innovation, solutions, and technology. Also has a manual. Accounts for work to buildings with aesthetic, cultural, and heritage value.

Renewable Low Temperature District (RELaTED)

Solar panels run rampant when sun exposure is high, feeding the grid. RELaTED is developing storage – running pilots in Spain – to enhance efficiency for generating the utmost energy possible at times of intensity and retain it for use when generation is poor. In regions of high electricity costs, especially where this correlates with low-income areas, properties generating their own power are in line to save a stash of cash.

Improvement of Housing Energy Performance Level of Public Buildings

Or, to give it the full name: ‘Improvement of housing energy performance level of public buildings through introducing innovative technologies and solutions in Estonia and Pskov region’. Public buildings in this geographical location, it says, are rife with high energy consumption due to depreciation over time. This project aims to improve awareness of the necessity of retrofitting and how it can be done, including on properties with protected status.

Sustainable Housing for Strong Communities (Stronghouse)

Aiming to better understand the drivers that motivate homeowners to retrofit so that they invest in energy renovations.

Deep Retrofit Programme Summary

A summary of this pilot programme in Ireland includes videos of homeowners’ personal experience of the benefits of deep retrofits. The project itself “was launched to investigate the technical, financial and behavioural challenges and opportunities” involved in this form of energy renovation. It was designed to inform future policies and make retrofitting attractive to homeowners with financial incentives.

Hive Power has helpfully compiled a list of 5 more projects – all of them leading their own unique brand of community energy programme. These are, namely:

Horizon 2020 Energy Efficiency Data Hub

Interactive map of the EU’s many Horizon 2020 energy efficiency projects. Far too many for us to list here!

Other Regions


Dubbed as the world’s most ambitious retrofit programme, “bringing together 2,000 organisations, across 13 countries, at over 100 events in 2016-17” to “empower stakeholders to assist public authorities”. A defining element was their RenoWiki, but this resource for renovation-based learning gleaned from various EU countries doesn’t live up to promises. Read the original press release for details.

Advancing the initial project is BUILD UPON2, a framework tool that cities can use to measure the impact of energy savings at an environmental, social, and economic scale.

Smarter Energy Communities in Northern and Arctic Regions

Looking into the possibilities of smart community energy systems in remote regions.

Low Income Energy Efficiency Program (LIEEP)

From 2011-16, LIEEP issued Australian Government grants to consortium-led projects trialling energy efficiency improvements to low-income households.

Case Studies

Zetland Road in Manchester, UK was Europe’s first Passivhaus EnerPHit Plus residential project. It set out to preserve the authentic heritage aesthetic while modernising comfort in a 125-year-old house. Renovations ranged from the typical (triple glazing) to the sublime (LED chandeliers).

Orizuru Tower in Hiroshima, Japan, is an example of how older buildings vulnerable to earthquakes can be reinforced to withstand seismic activity. The addition of dampers and steel framing strengthened the frame. The opportunity of creating more floor space during construction was also taken. The result was a more practical, visually stimulating, and safer building.

Seismic retrofits still need attention. Plans to refurbish 2,000 buildings in Santa Monica, California have stalled despite the very real threat to life and limb.

Beat the Heat! focussed on improving the thermal comfort of Adelaide’s low-income private rental residents by installing ceiling insulation and reverse cycle air conditioning (RCAC) – their name for heat pumps. Data-backed regulated cooling was proven in 78% of homes resulting in a better quality of living.

We also have an article exploring regional variations in retrofitting. It’s well worth a read.

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