Content writer Grace Murphy highlights the reasons for and challenges of retrofitting old buildings.

Many of the buildings that were constructed in the last century are responsible for the increase in energy consumption in the world. This is because they have old and outdated equipment that is not as energy efficient as what we have today.

Tearing these buildings down is not an option due to the cosy and environmental implications that might have. This is why many builders opt to retrofit these buildings. When doing so, they have to weigh up the reasons, costs and challenges for doing so against tearing the building down and building a new one.

So, what are the reasons for retrofitting and what challenges can builders expect?

Tenants are at the heart of it

More people are becoming conscious of their role in climate change. Most of these people realise that doing simple things like living in energy efficient and smart buildings is a great way for them to do their part in fighting climate change.

Many of these people will therefore rent in buildings that have strategies in place to reduce their carbon footprint.


Every business owner and landlord wants to stand out and give their property the best chance of attracting tenants. A smart building gives them a competitive advantage over other business owners and landlords.

This advantage comes from using the savings from reduced energy consumption to keep the building in top shape, as well as charging higher rates for the better living standard their buildings offer. Additionally, due to the high demand, the building also increases in value.

Ease of maintenance

Buildings that are retrofitted with the latest gadgets and equipment are easier to maintain. Everything can be managed using software which means the owner or manager does not have to visit the building to diagnose issues.

It also makes it easier to pinpoint the exact issue so they can better direct contractors and engineers to fix it.

Lower energy bills

Buildings retrofitted with the latest equipment afford building owners massive savings in energy bills. Additionally, the use of software and sensors can help find areas where energy is being wasted, thereby giving building owners and managers a path to forming a strategy to rectify this.

Incomplete documentation is a major challenge

Because many of the buildings that need to be retrofitted are old, it is common for their owners not to have the complete documentation for how the building was built and operates.

This issue is further compounded if the building has had major repairs or has changed considerably since it was erected.

This missing documentation makes it harder to get a complete idea of how all the buildings systems work together, thereby complicating retrofitting plans.

Obsolete systems

Older buildings are more often than not running older, obsolete systems. Many of these systems have reached their end of life, too. This means that the retrofitting contractor has to get rid of the older system and install a new system. It then has to incur the cost and time it takes to ensure all the systems are up to code.

A common issue for retrofitters is the old and obsolete electrical systems. Because a contractor might not know where there may be frayed wires or other issues, they may have to redo the building’s electrical system. After that, they need to get an electrical installation condition report. The EICR will tell them if any issues are remaining.

To save time and money, contractors are encouraged to get their EICR from Electrical Safety Certificate which hands out the report after a thorough inspection of the new system.

Trade Facilities Services, which issues the electrical installation condition report also provides other electrical reports which include Emergency Light Reports, Fire Alarm Reports and PAT testing, all of which you might need at the end of the retrofitting process.

Old equipment

Contractors also have to deal with old equipment that is usually barely functioning. This can include air conditioning units, ventilation fans and heaters. Some of these can be repaired and even then, they might not perform as they were intended, so the contractor has to account for the cost of replacing them.

Additionally, this equipment cannot interface with new systems and management software, so even if the contractor might be able to get them repaired and working, they still need to be replaced as they might compromise the retrofitted building.


Many of the challenges that retrofitters deal with are common, and they know how to deal with most of them. That said, every old building is different and each has at least one surprise for retrofitters. These include appliances, plumbing, valves and pipes that might not be working as intended.

To remedy many of these surprises, the contractor has to spend a lot more money and take time away from handling other pressing issues.

Retrofitting an old building is a great way of reducing its carbon footprint and increasing its energy efficiency. As a building owner, retrofitting is an opportunity to bring your building into the 21st century and realise all the benefits retrofitting affords you.