Weatherization is a hot topic in architecture and construction. With the increase in extreme weather and growing directives for achieving sustainability goals among leading companies, the demand upon architects to efficiently maximize a building’s overall environmental performance while balancing the client’s goal of excellent design is essential to delivering effective architecture.

With 40 percent of buildings in developed nations predating 1980, there’s a huge potential for retrofitting older buildings to improve energy performance. Currently about 1 percent of these older buildings are being improved annually, with the weatherization market projected to grow in value from $36.4 million in 2023 to $52.8 million is 2033.

With interest in LEED certification, smart building tech, air quality, and greenhouse gas emissions on the rise, and discussions of new government regulations to limit energy consumption underway, aging buildings in the U.S. are ripe for cost-effective energy upgrades that can improve their resilience against extreme weather.

An energy load profile analysis reveals how buildings can use energy.

While choosing materials and products that have been proven to be energy-efficient and durable against weather is ideal, it’s still hard to improve what hasn’t been measured. One public data source designed to help decarbonize buildings, from the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL),is a database of End-Use Load Profiles that shows how improving U.S. buildings can make an impact. By modeling 900,000 buildings—65 percent of commercial floor space and one out of 240 residential buildings—NREL has gathered a wealth of data that informs decision makers about decarbonization, energy efficiency, and weatherization.

For more project-specific energy modeling, some innovative utility companies like National Grid also offer building energy modeling for their clients. These models paint the picture of what’s needed either in a specific building that will be retrofitted or one that hasn’t yet been built.

“We have engineers that create models, and we also work with outside firms, including energy-efficiency firms, to put together a technical assistance study that considers the energy impacts of the work that either the architects or the contractors are planning on doing,” says Max Halik, Senior Product Developer, Customer Energy Management – Growth & Development at National Grid. “It all depends on the building size and the type of building that's being built.”

Optimize energy efficiency with smart upgrades.

Maximizing the efficiency and durability of the building envelope is key to delivering excellent weatherization design, and it can help clients avoid future increased energy costs. Even though the tried-and-true methods of improving insulation in walls, sealing air leaks, installing pipe insulation, and choosing highly rated windows all help deliver on this goal, every building and site is unique. A one-size-fits-all approach would miss out on opportunities for increasing a building’s performance.

“From a new construction or major renovations perspective, National Grid takes a holistic approach where we work with architects and building designers to provide technical expertise and net-zero building technical assistance,” says Halik. “Some of our incentives, depending on the size of the building and the square footage of the building, are compelling considerations when leveled against total project cost.”

Utility partners like National Grid work within the budget to help suggest modifications to a building design that can maximize and optimize its performance. The earlier a utility partner is included in the design process, the greater the benefit. For example, it’s easier to make adjustments for a heat pump during the design phase than it is to modify a design after construction has begun.

“Once a plan is set in place, it becomes costly to go back and make modifications, and customers typically resist it at that point,” says Susanne Smithers, NY Lead Analyst, C&I Customer Energy Management for National Grid. “So we definitely encourage any architects to reach out to us so that we can engage in their initial conversations with their customers and work directly with them to come up with a maximum saving and incentive for that specific project through our custom program.”

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