Facade Retrofit research published by USC

Monday, November 25, 2013

USC's Existing Buildings Retrofit Survey Report can be found here. The Facade Retrofit LinkedIn group can be found here.

Researchers from the University of Southern California School of Architecture have released the results of a preliminary survey on building facade retrofit. The Existing Buildings Retrofit Survey Report is part of a long-term commitment to study the challenging problem of existing buildings: their impact on the built environment, and strategies for retrofitting to improve efficiency and meet future sustainability goals for the built environment. Andrea Martinez and Mic Patterson are Ph.D. candidates at USC’s School of Architecture, and are spearheading the research effort.

"At this point, we are primarily trying to identify past facade retrofit projects as candidates for case study research,” Martinez says. “There have been very few building energy retrofit projects to date that have involved the facade because of cost, but there is an immense looming need. Many of these facade systems are 40 to 50 years old and more, and were not particularly good performers to begin with."

The first round survey identified over 300 retrofit buildings from over 30 countries as potential candidates. "One of the things we intend to do is develop an online database of these retrofit projects, capturing key project data that may reveal patterns and trends in facade retrofit applications," Patterson says. "One of the things we have already discovered is that buildings being constructed today — and well into the future — will require retrofit in order to meet currently established energy performance goals for the commercial building sector. Yet, no consideration is given to facilitating the retrofit in the design of the facade system. Retrofitting old curtainwall buildings can often only be accomplished by completely removing the original curtainwall and replacing it with a new, higher performance system, a practice that challenges sustainable construction practices.

The retrofit buildings identified in the survey were primarily office buildings (72%). The majority facade type was highly-glazed curtainwall. New curtainwall systems used to over-clad existing masonry facades was another retrofit strategy common amongst the survey results.

Martinez and Patterson intend to publish the results of this ongoing investigation and open a public database as a resource to the AEC industry to help facilitate the facade retrofit process. The researchers are also soliciting the participation of retrofit practitioners to share their experience by participating in ongoing surveys and case study research. "We can only accomplish our goals with the support of the building community," Martinez says.

To facilitate this outreach, the researchers have launched a Facade Retrofit LinkedIn group to establish a forum that can share in this investigation effort, and where future findings and case studies can be posted. The Facade Retrofit LinkedIn group can be found here.