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Achieving deep energy retrofits in historic and modern-era buildings [AIA course]

Success in retrofit projects requires an entirely different mindset than in new construction.

May 30, 2017 |

Wooster Hall, looking north as sunlight strikes the steps of the atrium, marking solar noon. Photo: © 2016 Tim Hursley 

The high-performance retrofit of an existing building is more difficult than building new because the structural system, orientation, and massing—the first tools in the architect’s kit—have already been used. 

Moreover, the deep affection often associated with existing structures that possess cultural and historic significance presents even more resistance to high-performance design—the fear that the process will require massive modification of “untouchable” community assets.

Yet this critical segment of the built environment represents a vast reservoir of sustainable potential and carries with it our society’s multi-generational heritage.

After reading this article, you should be able to:
+ Assess the sustainable potentials and limitations of an existing building of historic/cultural significance.
+ Prioritize the overall active and passive design strategies within the physical limitations and the historic/community values of a given setting.
+ Discuss a daylighting strategy that combines the use of direct and diffuse daylight and thermal loading attuned to functional need.
+ Anticipate the future life of the building in transition to sustainability and generate an “anticipatory” design to support the implementation of that vision.



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