Recent history has taught us that every time a new building code is adopted, stricter codes for meeting high-performance design requirements are expected. Paired with the sustainability goals of developers and owners, there is increasing energy-savings pressure on retrofitting the 6 million commercial buildings and 101 million single-family homes that were built prior to 2000.

Owners of these older buildings expect architects to know how to meet the new codes, understand how to best use new and innovative building products, and avoid fines while reducing environmental impact and navigating the achievement of building certifications like WELL AP and LEED. Plus, some U.S. states and municipalities are adopting codes to limit or ban on-site fossil fuels—oil, gas, and propane—in new buildings and instead be powered on-site or off-site renewable energy.

Alongside each building owner’s goals to reduce carbon emissions and meet net-zero goals, it’s no surprise there is considerable pressure on architects to deliver streamlined energy-reducing retrofit designs. However, with experts predicting $21 billion that’s expected to be spent on retrofits through 2030, knowing how to strategize and implement energy-efficient technologies and systems is an expertise that is also a worthy investment.

Partnering with a local utility company that prioritizes decarbonizing the economy and providing clean, fair, and affordable power, like National Grid, is one way to help relieve some of the pressure. Through initial rebates for energy-saving building products like lighting, HVAC, smart technology, and other systems, local utility partners like National Grid are helping their customers meet sustainability goals for environmental product declarations, lower embodied carbon of their buildings, and decreased emissions.

Even with millions of buildings falling short of low carbon emissions, only about 1% of existing buildings are retrofitted each year with upgraded insulation, energy-efficient windows and doors, smart thermostats, energy-efficient lighting, and other weatherization strategies. That’s far lower than the International Energy Agency’s benchmark that requires an annual rate of 2.5% retrofits of older buildings, which would reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

This push toward net-zero isn’t possible without everyone working together during the planning and design phase of a retrofit. Carefully planned upgrades can reduce water and energy usage, reduce the building’s carbon footprint, and control humidity levels while meeting sustainability and benchmarking goals.

Still, not all older commercial buildings and houses are worthwhile retrofit candidates. And until the launch of the CARE Tool, which helps designers and owners assess whether reusing or building new is the best carbon strategy, it wasn’t easy to evaluate the embodied carbon benefits of retrofits.

Weighing the benefits of reusing older buildings with embodied carbon and carbon emissions as a benchmark, the decisions made during the assessment, design, and planning stages are essential to deliver a smart retrofit that helps increase the nation’s building stock to reach net-zero by 2050.

With the race toward net-zero underway, it’s helpful to consider working with a trusted partner like National Grid who can help achieve energy-savings goals in retrofit projects.

Find out more about National Grid’s programs at