Retrofit Evaluation

Building Research Solutions quantifying retrofit energy upgrades

Whether it’s to reduce the cost of fuel bills, reduce energy demand, or reduce related carbon dioxide emissions, everyone knows the importance of improving the energy efficiency of our existing buildings – which we call ‘retrofit for the future’.  

Retrofit - Thermal Scan of Window side by side with image of the same window

The problem is knowing how to improve a building’s energy efficiency remains a mystery for most of us. Many in the construction industry are well versed with the theory of how to reduce a building’s energy demand, but with so much variety in construction types, ages, occupancy types, and retrofit materials, choosing the best method to improve energy efficiency can be daunting.  

Now, add on the restrictions and idiosyncrasies that come with historic buildings – those built before 1919 – and you have a really confusing, time consuming, and potentially risky situation on your hands.  No matter how daunting the challenge of retrofitting may appear, a ‘do nothing’ approach should not be considered [Scottish Government, 2022]. 

So, how do you know what retrofit measure to use? How do you know if that measure is the best one for the job? And, even more importantly, how do you make sure that you’ve not done more harm than good to the building’s fabric and its occupants? 

This is where BRS’s 12 years of expertise and experience in retrofit assessment and evaluation becomes invaluable. Born out of landmark research and development work with traditionally constructed buildings in Scotland, we use science, data driven methods, and evidence-based decisions to demystify retrofit pathways.

Retrofit BRS Staff Member in harness on roof of traditional building

Case Study: Retrofit Evaluation of traditionally constructed buildings

Description of project’s scope 

BRS staff were at the forefront of the building performance evaluation research, with Historic Scotland (now Historic Environment Scotland), leading the way to shape our understanding of thermal retrofit for historic (traditionally built, aka pre-1919) buildings.  

With other building performance scientists, our staff measured the hygrothermal (the transfer of heat and moisture) performance of this pre-1919 building type. We did this before any retrofit measures were added, providing the baseline hygrothermal performance; then we measured the hygrothermal performance of the buildings after the retrofit measures were installed. This project lasted for a decade, from 2010 to 2020, with an intense measurement regime from 2010 to 2015. 

Who we worked with

  • Historic Environment Scotland 
  • CastleRock Edinvar 
  • Edinburgh World Heritage 
  • National Trust for Scotland 
  • Sustainable Uist 
  • Gannochy Trust 

Where we worked 

We worked with, assessed and evaluated 35 pre-1919 building types from all across Scotland: from Uist to Lybster, from Dundee and Perth to Fife and Edinburgh, to Glasgow and Isle of Bute. 


Our building physicists were among the founders and first contributors of the scientific content to the retrofit website, now defunct. 


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