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Real Lead

Retrofitting is the process of adding modern systems to older buildings to make them sustainable. As the structure of the building is not altered, retrofitting is ideal for heritage buildings, as well as older houses and commercial buildings that are not in good condition, but possess character and should therefore not be demolished as they form part of our cultural heritage.

In addition to the restoration and maintenance of the existing structure, retrofitting should also involve the application of techniques that conserve the amount of energy required to keep the building cool.

To this end, a number of ‘green’ techniques can be employed:

Insulation can be applied to the walls, either internally or externally. However, caution must be exercised to ensure that the applied insulation does not negatively impact the original structure of the building. External cladding using materials such as stones or bricks (which match the existing masonry work) is worth considering as it is an effective form of external insulation.

A secondary glazing system and double glazed windows can be installed to provide greater insulation, as long as they do not alter the building’s structure. Additionally, secondary glazing systems and double glazed windows are effective in reducing noise pollution.

Solar panels are a viable and long-term energy solution. The solar orientation of the building’s roof is critical to their use, so panels should be only used if the roof receives a substantial amount of sunlight. The installation of the panels should not obstruct or hide any valuable architectural elements.

A ‘living’ or green roof can also be set up but its implementation primarily depends on the building’s load bearing capacity. A thorough evaluation of the building should be conducted beforehand.

Ultimately, retrofitting a building is far more cost effective than tearing it down and constructing a new one. Although gaining traction in Pakistan, retrofitting is yet to become a regular practice.

– Amena Nadeem
The writer is an architect at Studio Subtractive.