Blog from Jane Marsh: How to retrofit a building for climate change

Global warming is creating suitable conditions for climate change. In response, worldwide industries have sought ways to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and overall carbon footprint.

Retrofitting buildings has proven effective in enhancing energy efficiency and reducing environmental impact. Across the board, green innovations have enabled the optimization of existing structures for the United States to cut emissions in half by 2030 and meet net-zero goals by 2050.

Continue reading to learn why energy-efficient upgrades are necessary and different ways to retrofit a building for climate change.

The Case for Retrofitting Buildings

Almost half of today’s commercial infrastructure was built before 2000 and doesn’t meet today’s energy standards. However, according to a recent American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) report, retrofitting can reduce energy by 40% in buildings compared to taking individual approaches.

Instead, retrofitting is a deep transformation that swaps aging and less-efficient equipment with new models that meet today’s standards. Although somewhat of a costly endeavor initially, full-system energy audits can result in savings ranging from 5% to 30% — a much less wasteful solution for energy-efficient operations.

Since commercial buildings emit 16% of all carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the U.S., widespread decarbonization using green technologies and procedures can significantly improve companies’ carbon footprint.

5 Ways to Retrofit a Building

Retrofitting a building for climate change requires careful thought and strategic planning. As a substantial and expensive undertaking, you’ll want to retrofit a building correctly for maximum rewards. Here are five ways to retrofit a building.

1. Install Solar Panels

Solar power is now the crux of energy efficiency in the U.S. What was once an expensive, niche technology for residential energy savings has now become one of the most efficient ways to lower your carbon footprint.

Solar rooftop panels are the first-choice alternative to retrofit a building for climate change. Optimized green technology generates ample electricity from sunlight — a natural resource — to support a building’s energy needs.

Installing solar panels on commercial structures can ease pressure on a building’s systems and reduce a company’s reliance on the grid. It also delivers a cleaner power source and enhances efficiency rates.

An Environment America study suggests installing solar panels on big box stores and shopping plazas could reduce half of a building’s electricity consumption annually.

2. Upgrade HVAC

Commercial buildings in the U.S. used 153 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) in 2021, equating to 4% of the country’s electricity use.

Upgrading the existing HVAC system with new equipment can improve energy efficiency in commercial buildings.

Retrofitting should also include regular testing and maintenance to ensure peak performance at all times. Continuous HVAC commissioning will extend the HVAC unit’s life span and improve operational issues and tenant comfort.

3. Optimize Performance

A survey by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) found that the U.S. commercial sector utilized 6.8 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu) of energy in 2018, spending nearly $142 billion.

Overall, lighting, ventilation, heating and cooling systems account for a building’s primary energy expenditure. By changing existing lighting and optimizing the building’s temperature with a smart thermostat system, it’s possible to improve indoor air quality and comfort based on occupancy.

4. Improve Water Efficiency

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the commercial sector accounts for 17% of public water withdrawals, making it the second largest consumer of the public water supply.

Building retrofits should consider water efficiency, such as upgrading water-utilizing equipment and implementing improved end-use water systems. On a smaller but equally-effective scale, installing WaterSense low-flow faucets and toilets can significantly save in a short time.

5. Invest in Data-Tracking Tools

Real-time energy data is critical to understanding a building’s consumption and developing solutions to reduce energy use. Fortunately, there are numerous data-tracking tools available that companies can utilize.

Internet of Things (IoT) retrofitting enables real-time data insights for an entire building or per tenant and equipment. Even better, a cloud-based IoT solution ensures everyone in the organization can see energy consumption data on-site or via mobile devices.

These tools can help guide future retrofitting or updates on a needs basis for optimal efficiency.

Save Energy With Commercial Retrofits

Retrofitting buildings for climate change will save energy and money. Although many of the changes are costly, businesses and the planet will equally benefit in the long run.


About the author: Jane works as an environmental and energy writer. She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of

One thought on “Blog from Jane Marsh: How to retrofit a building for climate change

  1. Strange that this “ expert” fails to acknowledge at any point that the first area to improve in any building is its fabric.
    Making sure walls, roof and floor are throughly insulated, AND that windows and doors contain modern glazing. I wonder why she is so ignorant?

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