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These prefab ‘skins’ could make homes more energy efficient

One of our biggest challenges as we strive for a net-zero world is making existing buildings energy efficient. However, a German engineering start-up may have an ingenious solution to speed up the retrofitting process.

Working smarter – and not harder – could be the solution to improving our current problem with inefficient buildings.

In a bid to transition urban metropolises to net-zero over the coming decades, architects and city planners are now considering the climate within most new builds.

The biggest challenge for the construction industry, however, is figuring out how to renovate the old ones without knocking down and starting from scratch.

Wasted energy from poorly insulated buildings is a major contributor to carbon emissions. In fact, across Europe, 40% of overall energy consumption quite literally goes out the window, and estimates suggest it would take 500 years to retrofit the buildings causing the issue.

In the US, which is reportedly the second largest emitter of carbon globally, the process remains even slower. Suffice to say, as it stands, our cities are not aligned with 2050 targets. That doesn’t mean to say that no progress is being made though.

Credit: Ecoworks

A German start-up called Ecoworks has found a way of converting entire buildings to bring them up to standard within a matter of weeks, and is retrofitting throughout its home nation.

Using artificial intelligence to see what buildings are a good fit for its systems, it then creates a 3D model of the building to scale. From there, its over to building staff to put the graft in.

Comprised of quality insulation on the inside, sleek wooden panelling on the exterior, and even solar panels on the roof, these secondary skins are simple to install straight onto buildings and instantly convert them to energy efficient ones.

Once scans of a structure are completed inside and out, plans are sent to its suppliers and factories where nearly everything is built in advance; including windows, ventilation, and channels for pipes. Once fully constructed and present on site, each face of a building is said to take just 20 minutes to install.

Credit: Ecoworks

In the case of one project last year, Ecoworks renovated a 1930s apartment complex which once used 450 kilowatt-hours per square meter – and was registered as one of the country’s least efficient buildings – into a residence that actually feeds energy back into the grid.

As of right now, its technology is primarily used to convert simple buildings that are easy to work with, but it plans to extend its program to cover schools and single family homes in the near future. The ultimate aim, is then to go global.

With some 30 million apartments in need of renovation throughout Germany alone, it will take governments to get on board and really push for changes to standardised building codes before we get on top of the issue.

As Ecoworks’ chief Emmanuel Heisenberg states, ‘You really need technology to solve the problem.’


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