This literature review aims to provide a general picture of retrofit needs, markets, and commonly used strategies and measures to reduce building energy consumption, and is primarily focused on energy retrofit of the building envelope. Improving airtightness and thermal performance are the two key aspects for improving energy performance of the building envelope and subsequently reducing the energy required for space heating or cooling. This report focuses on the retrofit of single family houses and wood-frame buildings and covers potential use of wood-based systems in retrofitting the building envelope of concrete and steel buildings.
Air sealing is typically the first step and also one of the most cost-effective measures to improving energy performance of the building envelope. Airtightness can be achieved through sealing gaps in the existing air barrier, such as polyethylene or drywall, depending on the air barrier approach; or often more effectively, through installing a new air barrier, such as an airtight exterior sheathing membrane or continuous exterior insulation during retrofit. Interface detailing is always important to achieve continuity and effectiveness of an air barrier. For an airtight building, mechanical ventilation is needed to ensure good indoor air quality and heat recovery ventilators are typically required for an energy efficient building.
Improving thermal resistance of the building envelope is the other key strategy to improve building energy efficiency during retrofit. This can be achieved by: 1. blowing or injecting insulation into an existing wall or a roof; 2. building extra framing, for example, by creating double-stud exterior walls to accommodate more thermal insulation; or, 3. by installing continuous insulation, typically on the exterior. Adding exterior insulation is a major solution to improving thermal performance of the building envelope, particularly for large buildings. When highly insulated building envelope assemblies are built, more attention is required to ensure good moisture performance. An increased level of thermal insulation generally increases moisture risk due to increased vapour condensation potential but reduced drying ability. Adding exterior insulation can make exterior structural components warmer and consequently reduce vapour condensation risk in a heating climate. However, the vapour permeance of exterior insulation may also affect the drying ability and should be taken into account in design.
Overall energy retrofit remains a tremendous potential market since the majority of existing buildings were built prior to implementation of any energy requirement and have large room available for improving energy performance. However, significant barriers exist, mostly associated with retrofit cost. Improving energy performance of the building envelope typically has a long payback time depending on the building, climate, target performance, and measures taken. Use of wood-based products during energy retrofit also needs to be further identified and developed.