Retrofits Versus Take Downs and New Builds

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When we evaluate structures to either tear down and re-build or save and retrofit, our first instinct is always to save and re-use what’s existing. This is primarily due to a large amount of embodied energy in the existing building materials.

Even if rebuilding to high energy efficiency standards, the carbon payback time of the materials and process to build new could be as long as thirty years. Consequently, we thoroughly investigate all components of the building before making our recommendation of best options, as we could also find that rebuilding makes better sense. For example; structural concerns, crumbling foundations and extensive mold and rot, can also lead to a high embodied energy impact in the retrofitting process. This is a multi-layered evaluation when considering high energy performance goals for either option.

One of the biggest advantages of retrofitting is that it can be done in stages. If considering this option, we highly recommend considering long-term goals for the building, (see Home Energy Plan). This work plan is something that can be passed on to future owners and will continue to build value in the home.

If tearing down is the best option, we try to recycle as much of the existing structure and components as possible. In our older New England homes, we also have a wonderful resource in the walls, rafters, and floors that were built with old growth timber. This lumber is beautiful, tight grained, and not around anymore. This can be used for exposed beams, dining tables, specialty moldings, anything you can think of to enhance the new with a bit of the old.

Whether retrofitting or rebuilding, we also complete a Life Cycle Assessment of all materials and processes. This encompasses evaluating the environmental impact of; material extraction, manufacturing, transportation, distribution, etc.

No matter the direction, there is much to consider. With our years of experience in retrofitting and building high-performance structures, we can help guide you through the process.