Photo used with permission from Rc Panels, Lemelerveld, Netherlands & Brooklyn, NY
Energy retrofits of existing buildings are essential to meeting California’s climate goals as the building sector is accountable for 25% of greenhouse gas emissions in the State. Retrofits to decarbonize structures are especially important when you consider that about 75% of all buildings that will be in use for the next 50 years have already been built.
An innovative program called REALIZE-CA was inspired by Energiesprong —meaning energy jump—a nonprofit launched by the Dutch government in the 2010s. REALIZE-CA, an initiative of RMI (Rocky Mountain Institute), is working with affordable housing building owners, manufacturers, community organizations and policymakers to develop a statewide net-zero retrofit program. Using this powerful technology to standardize and streamline building retrofits can help California meet its aggressive climate goals. The program is focused on affordable housing including low- and mid-rise multifamily buildings that represent more than 82% of existing multifamily units in the State. Low-income residents face an uneven burden, with energy spending up to 3 times higher than households not classified as low income. The dual challenge of affordability and environmental impact creates urgency for innovative solutions.
The efforts in California are focused on catalyzing the development of a speedy and scalable process for zero-carbon residential energy retrofits, with major efforts focused on technology development and deployment, as well as market facilitation. The team is working on developing standardized retrofit packages that are easy to deploy, reduce tenant disruption and achieve zero-carbon operations. With those goals in mind, REALIZE-CA will combine deep energy efficiency with electrification paired with renewable energy and load-shifting technologies to overcome the unique challenges of California multifamily housing and start a retrofit revolution in California.
In the Netherlands, the Energiesprong network is now known as Stroomversnelling, which aimed to create Net Zero Energy (NZE) buildings on a large scale. In 2013, Energiesprong brokered the “Stroomversnelling” deal between Dutch building contractors and housing associations to refurbish 111,000 homes to NZE. Two years later, Stroomversnelling evolved into a market initiative designed to take NZE to the next level. In other countries the name Energiesprong is still in use.
One way mass retrofits are being done in the Netherlands is by using lightweight, insulated panels, crafted by Rc Panels (select English) that can be popped on the front of existing row houses. A laser scanning tool is used to take measurements at the existing house. At the factory, a machine is used to cut out windows and doors to match the old façade exactly. When a truck delivers the panels, they’re attached directly to the old wall. In the Dutch city of Utrecht, houses and apartments that were retrofitted in 2019 have seen their energy use drop by around 78%. Remaining energy needs are covered by solar panels. This approach and its success are inspiring innovation for REALIZE-CA.
RMI is working with partners to test the concept in a handful of pilot projects including an apartment complex used for low-income farmworker housing in California. RMI and others are working with the Department of Energy on a report that lists all the major building types for regions of the country. They are slated to provide retrofit guidelines for each type later in 2022.
California’s regional sub-program within REALIZE is developing and deploying streamlined, prefabricated retrofit solutions tailored to the California market. Current building retrofit solutions are extremely complex and expensive, resulting in historically low retrofit rates and few opportunities to decarbonize buildings.
This program supported by three awards from the California Energy Commission’s Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC) Program which invests in scientific and technological research to accelerate the transformation of the electricity sector to meet the State’s energy and climate goals.
November 19, 2016 Blog
November 19, 2016 Blog
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