Retrofit Revs Up in 2017

Whether your outlook for 2017 is positive, negative or neutral, there are undisputed bright spots in commercial construction. One of the brightest is retrofit for existing buildings.

According to David Corson, publisher/editor of Commercial Construction & Renovation magazine, “We see many projects in the pipeline involving renovation as well as new construction.” Corson says the consumer has far too many options to choose retailers, hospitality venues and restaurants that don’t make the effort to get ahead of the game. “Something as simple as new carpeting makes a big difference,” he says.

Of course, energy retrofits are a primary sector. And it’s not just major buildings involved exploiting major potential. According to the National Institute of Building Sciences Council on Finance, Insurance and Real Estate, 94% of U.S. commercial properties are small buildings of 50,000 square feet or less, accounting for 49.5% of U.S. commercial square footage.

The Council estimates the too-long-overlooked market for energy retrofits in small buildings at $35.6 billion. In addition to the energy savings, the retrofits would result in employment increases, business resilience and enhanced security for the U.S. electric grid.

Overall, retrofit potential for the entire building industry is hard to overestimate. According to the Rocky Mountain Institute, a 2012 study by the Rockefeller Foundation placed a value of $260 billion on the U.S. retrofit market. The Institute says 80% of today’s commercial square footage will be standing and operating in 2030 and 65% will be in place in 2050. “Retrofitting existing commercial buildings for energy efficiency is one of the greatest opportunities facing the building industry,” concludes the Institute.

And retrofit potential extends beyond energy efficiency, of course. Updating the building’s appearance and improving its overall performance while utilizing its existing structure can provide big benefits. Advances in materials and systems make today’s retrofitting easier and more economical.