Green Retrofitting A Home: Where To Start

Governments all over the world are responding to the energy efficiency implications of green building, and the evolution of building codes to support it, particularly in major urban and suburban areas.  Building codes in the United States are certainly adapting to this new paradigm of construction, home-owning, and energy bill reduction. 

So, if you’re looking to prepare a space, including an older property, for a green retrofitting process, where do you start? Green energy efficiency writer Ciaran Oliver, who writes about the recent Green Deal in the UK, is here to tell you where to start an assessment of your home to prepare the way for an energy efficiency retrofit.


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There are many considerations that have to be considered when you are retro-fitting new green technologies to older buildings.  Older buildings are great for updating with new green technologies, but where to start? Here we look at how to audit a building before you start work.

Green retrofitting audit is from the top down

One of the first ways to begin is to audit the building in question.  Start with the insulation and start at the top.  Is the roof weather proof? Older buildings can suffer from leaks and poorly maintained roofs, so this is an absolute must; make sure the roof is weather tight and sound.  Next move into the loft space, if the building has one, is it insulated properly? What depth of insulation is already installed?  If the building has a flat roof it can still be properly insulated to modern standards.

Insulation and your retrofitting project

The recommended depth for mineral wool is 270mm to be installed in the loft.  If you are using real wool or wool mixes you should have a similar thickness and minimum of 240mm is advisable. Once you have the loft properly insulated you should move down the building and inspect the walls. If your building was built pre 1930’s it most probably has solid walls or walls with a cavity. If you have cavity walls, the cavity needs to be filled with insulation, a specialist company can do this quite cheaply, it is not something you can do on your own.

If you have solid walls you have two options open to you: insulating from the outside or insulating from the inside.   If your building has a preservation order you will be faced with insulating from the inside.  Outside options include rendering the outside walls with an insulating render or by using special insulated boards that can be applied to the outsides of buildings.   If you are insulating from the inside you can either use a stud wall filled with mineral wool or use special insulted boards that can be fixed to the internal walls.

Floors and retrofitting

Now you have made the decisions about the walls and roof let’s  move onto the floor. Floors can be insulated to and shouldn’t be over looked in the grand scheme of things. You can use both natural fibres like wool, as a carpet underlay, or you can have specially made foam boards that can be placed directly onto the floor boards, that are common in older properties.  You should also look at how the skirting boards are meeting the floor and weather to invest time in filling gaps and holes. Draught proofing should also be a top priority when working with older buildings.

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Windows and doors

Ground floors on older buildings might not have a Damp Proof Course (DPC) and if damp is a consistent problem you should consider installing a DPC.  All it really consists of is a large thick piece of plastic that acts as a barrier to the ground beneath, so moisture can’t creep into your building from below.  Digging up floors and relaying concrete screeds over a DPC can be quite a costly and disruptive process, so consider your options before embarking on such a procedure.

Once the floor is audited you can have a look at the windows and doors. Older buildings do not always have regular fitting doors and windows and so off the shelf alternatives are sometimes not suitable.  Modern glazing can be fitted to older windows by replacing the glass and not the entire window, a specialist firm can advise on the best options on a case by case basis. Doors can be draught proofed properly before considering replacement.

There, you have finished your audit of the building and we haven’t even installed any green technology!   But this would be the wisest way to proceed. Insulate first, then generate second. You should usually see what savings can be had in insulation before moving on to power generation.

 Thanks, Ciaran!

Ciaran Oliver works for Green Deal initiative, a website designed to help the public with the up-coming Green Deal in the United Kingdom.




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