There are several definitions for retrofit that are used by different organisations across the industry. Many of these definitions tend to focus on interventions that increase the energy performance of a building, commonly referred to as a ‘deep energy retrofit’.

Deep energy improvements will of course be critical in the fight against climate change. However, despite its seriousness, the climate crisis is not the only issue that we currently face. There are several other social, environmental and economic factors that are, in many cases, equally as important and need to be addressed. It would therefore be insufficient to define retrofit solely around deep energy, as this diverts away from these other issues and the myriad of benefits that can result from a successful retrofit project.

Due to its holistic nature, and the spectrum of issues that it seeks to address, our definition of retrofit transcends that of deep energy and includes any upgrade to a building that increases its resilience, or the resilience of the community or location. This is across eight categories.

  • Seismic – strengthening a building to keep occupants safe in the event of an earthquake and to limit damage to the building itself.
  • Life safety – alterations to a building for improving the safety of occupants by removing hazardous structures or installing safety equipment such as sprinklers.
  • Inclusion and accessibility – adapting a building to ensure equal access and opportunities for everyone. This can be done through the reconfiguration of spaces, entrances and exits, as well as the installation of automatic doors, lifts or ramp access.
  • Heritage – the renovation of a protected or listed building to extend its life and maximise its historical value.
  • Deep energy – major alterations to the envelope of a building to reduce its energy consumption, often accompanied by the installation of low carbon technologies such as heat pumps or solar PV.
  • Regeneration – an upgrade to a building that results in economic, ecological or social regeneration.
  • Critical infrastructure – the renovation of healthcare, education, transport or culturally significant infrastructure.
  • Climate resilience – upgrades to a building that increase its resilience to climate related impacts such as flooding or heatwaves.

Research  |  Retrofit

Beyond Net Zero

Melvin Lau outlines how deep energy plays a key role in holistic retrofit and provides direction to make buildings reach beyond net zero by 2050.


Manchester Central Library

The transformation of a grade II* listed library as part of the wider refurbishment of Manchester’s town hall complex, widely regarded as one of the finest groups of civic buildings in the country.


King George V School

The classrooms had not been renovated in over 30 years, and were identified for renovation in alignment with an international best practice approach to teaching spaces.


Riverbank School

The base level refurbishment involved a basic upgrade to the MEP systems that had reached their end of life but included no alteration to the building fabric.


Newcastle Central Station

The brief was to declutter and revitalise the beautiful grade I listed structure and provide new and improved passenger facilities.


India Buildings

The restoration and enhancement of an iconic grade II* listed ‘merchants’ palace’ built in the 1930s, for use as a high performing, modern workplace for HMRC.


Coach Road

The deep energy retrofit of two semi detached houses located in Washington, Tyne and Wear.