Digital construction promotes greener, more affordable living

“In many cases, it is better to adapt what we already have, or so-called retrofitting, than to start from scratch.” This is what Leander Grassmann, Account Executive, says Autodesk Cloud Build. How can we adapt European homes to make them more sustainable and what are the opportunities and challenges?

The benefits of rehabilitating existing homes seem quite clear on paper. On an individual level, older and inefficient homes are too expensive for owners and residents, leading to financial stress. For example, think about the costs of heating an old house.

Countries are also working to improve their housing stock from a sustainability perspective to meet CO2 targets2emissions. After all, in the European Union, all buildings alone are responsible for this 25% of greenhouse gas emissions. As a result, there is a growing demand for retrofitting, with the European Commission calling for it to take place every year by 2030. 3% of buildings need comprehensive renovation.


But until now, retrofitting has often been implemented on a small scale. This means that projects are often tackled individually and interactively to meet short-term needs: for example, fixing a leaky roof or drafty windows. Unfortunately, projects were often awarded to the lowest bidder, the quality was not always high – and there was little incentive for companies to get creative.

To achieve sustainability goals, home retrofitting must be scaled up across Europe. In the UK, achieving a net-zero economy by 2050 would mean renovating one million homes a year over the next three decades. This also means addressing issues related to retrofitting.

With retrofitting, costs must be weighed against benefits, and many other considerations must be made in such projects. One of these is preserving the beautiful aspects of old homes. Because although older homes are less energy efficient, they often have many attractive aesthetic features.

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In addition, modernization also has an impact on the population. On the one hand, large-scale renovation projects often require residents to move, causing disruptions and increasing costs. But on the other hand, an upgraded home can improve residents’ quality of life in the long term, with a warmer, more weather-resistant and more affordable home.

Finance innovations

Perhaps the most important consideration is the financial aspect. For both individual owners and public and private property owners, it can be difficult to justify investing in upgrades to achieve long-term cost savings. But innovations are already underway in this area, such as the IMF’s financing model Energy Leap FoundationWhere costs and benefits are shared between owners and tenants.

Four ways in which technology can be used in retrofitting

1. Accurate digital plans containing a lot of data, for smarter planning and more effective maintenance

Planning retrofit projects can be complicated by a lack of accurate information. Especially when it comes to older buildings, plans may be incomplete or outdated, or important data may be missing.

When owners create accurate, data-rich digital plans, such as BIM models, they gain insights that help them organize renovations more effectively – by considering multiple options and enabling collaboration with specialists in sustainable technologies.

Digital plans can also provide benefits for the future. For example, by enabling facility teams to maintain buildings in a more cost-effective and energy-efficient manner. By accurately recording the materials used, for example, a materials passport, owners can also lay the foundation for any future renovations

2. Modern construction methods allow for cheaper and faster retrofits

Modern construction methods can help overcome retrofit limitations. After all, retrofits can be expensive and time-consuming or incomplete and low-quality. Energy Leap Foundation entered into a partnership with the construction sector to create… A “whole building” approach. Using ready-made parts.

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Building facades are built in factories, including insulating shells, windows, roofs and doors. Instead of addressing defects such as cracks or leaks one by one, the building is improved all at once. This approach is often faster, keeping inconvenience to residents to a minimum. Additionally, prefabrication limits variables, resulting in repeatable projects for large homeowners’ associations (HOAs), homeowner association managers, and housing associations.

3. Use data as a basis for modifying business cases

It can be difficult for homeowners’ associations and businesses to estimate the overall impact of adaptation projects. In addition to the actual impact of CO2 improvements2emissions, factors such as air quality and health in the home and their impact on the local economy. After projects are completed, it is not easy to evaluate costs and benefits and identify improvements for the future.

To enable large-scale renovations in Europe, collecting consistent and meaningful data is essential. That’s why it was Build on 2 (BU2) The program aims to measure the multiple impacts of building renovation, with a set of measurable indicators that can be used at the city level. BU2 is already being used in more than twenty cities, including Dublin, Padua and Leeds.

By making data analysis the standard, government policy can be guided and housing associations can build a stronger business case for future projects, freeing up more funding. Furthermore, it will help homeowners’ associations and other homeowners deliver projects more efficiently and make a greater impact.

4. The basics are compatible with digital construction

Errors can significantly deteriorate the sustainability of a retrofit project or any construction project. In addition, they can be expensive and harmful to the environment, including wasting energy and additional materials. Worse still, mistakes made when installing green features mean they likely won’t work properly for years. Digital construction platforms can help teams build right the first time by ensuring they always have access to up-to-date information, such as the BIM model.

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Collaboration and knowledge sharing can also be especially important when multiple professionals are working together on a renovation project. Sharing information instantly within these IT platforms means that everyone has access to the information they need, at any time, and can collaborate in real time.

Affordable green homes

To become more sustainable, European construction companies plan to invest an average of €900,000 over the next five years. Editing projects is always a matter of balance. But with better data, modern construction methods and the right basic principles, we can scale up renovation projects and create more efficient homes that are, in turn, better for the people who live in them.

Text: Leander Grassmann, Account Executive, Autodesk Construction cloud

Megan Vasquez

"Creator. Coffee buff. Internet lover. Organizer. Pop culture geek. Tv fan. Proud foodaholic."

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