Energy Retrofits of Residential Buildings: impact on architectural quality & occupants’ comfort
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In order to be successful on the market, energy-saving measures for existing buildings need to be promoted with arguments that are directly relevant to the users. Initial marketing for energy retrofitting has been based on monetary profits from future energy savings. However, for most households in Europe, energy bills for the home account for only 3-4 percent of disposable income, hence are not a major concern. As a result of inappropriate promotion of energy savings for existing buildings, less than 1 percent of over 300.000 projects certified by BREEAM are refurbishments. Apparently, the promotion of energy retrofitting needs to be based on different grounds. It has been shown that people are particularly attracted to the idea of increasing the comfort and appearance of their homes, rather than carbon savings or long-term monetary profits. Therefore, the goal in this paper was to analyze the potential of linking energy-efficiency to an increase in housing quality. The first step in the research was to study the current practise of energy upgrades of the existing building stock. Sixty case studies analyzed by International Energy Agency (IEA), under SHC Task 37, were taken as references. Based on these projects, the most frequent refurbishment interventions are: addition of thermal insulation, reconstruction of balconies, enlargement of window area and restructuring of the floor plan. Each of the four measures was analyzed in a separate chapter through various aspects of housing quality. It was concluded that the energy retrofitting can contribute to a higher aesthetic value of a building and to the comfort of its occupants. However, there are some possible negative outcomes of the actions as well, which might discourage people from making the investment. In terms of architecture, both the interior and exterior can benefit from the implementation of energy-saving measures. Due to large quantity of existing buildings, the visual results from these interventions will be dominant in the urban landscape and might even define a new style in architecture. The motive for writing this paper was to provide information about beneficial outcomes from building retrofits, thus help their promotion among the users. Even though this was achieved, the information is not structured in a way relevant for the users. A common user might ask: “What should I do to increase the air quality inside my apartment?” Therefore, further work on this matter should be directed towards organizing the information in a "user-friendly" way so that people can easily get informed on which energy-saving measures directly address their particular comfort requirements and to what extent.