February 15, 2024

Renew, Reuse, Retrofit: How to Build Sustainability in Your Fitout

Victoria is leading the charge on net zero. This aggressive approach towards climate action is forcing many Victorian landlords and property owners to rethink their existing spaces. Are these buildings functional? Are they energy efficient? And do they meet the needs of the current occupants?

Retrofits are a way to address these problems. It's a way for property owners to build smart, effective designs into their fitouts, leading to significant energy cost savings in the future. Retrofits also work to preserve the heritage and architectural character of older buildings. 

Below we’ll explore in detail what a retrofit is and what retrofitting tactics property owners can implement in their next fitout out.

What is a Building Retrofit?

Building retrofits – also known as adaptive reuse – involve renovating and repurposing an existing structure to meet the evolving needs of its occupants. In the context of office and commercial spaces, retrofitting offers a cost-effective and sustainable alternative to new construction, breathing new life into ageing buildings while preserving their historical and architectural significance.

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Why Retrofit a Building?

There are several reasons why business owners might invest in this type of building project:

1. Preservation of Architectural Heritage

One of the most significant advantages of a retrofit building is the preservation of architectural heritage. Melbourne's rich tapestry of historic buildings tells the story of its past, and retrofitting allows businesses to become part of this narrative while enjoying the charm and character of a bygone era. With an experienced team, contemporary and vintage elements are blended seamlessly to create a space that is functional and also inspiring. 

2. Cost-Effectiveness

Compared to new construction, retrofitting often proves to be more cost-effective. By leveraging existing infrastructure and minimising the need for extensive demolition and site preparation, businesses can achieve their desired transformation without breaking the bank.

3. Sustainability and Environmental Impact

In an era of heightened environmental awareness, retrofit building aligns with Victoria’s sustainability goals to reduce waste and carbon emissions associated with new construction. By repurposing existing structures, businesses can contribute to a greener future while enjoying the benefits of energy-efficient design features.

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4 Ways to Retrofit a Commercial Space

1. Identify & Elevate Moments of Heritage

When working with heritage-listed or older spaces, there are many restrictions around what you can change or modify. Try to envision these restrictions as opportunities to create and accentuate feature moments in your retrofit. 

For the work we did with Itinerant Spirits, there were certain elements within the heritage-listed goods shed that were untouchable. These included the internal bluestone walls and fireplace. To work around this, we created a totally free-standing floating mezzanine within the original space to work around this. We also turned the fireplace into a feature element, with all immediate design elements working to elevate this moment within the fitout.

Retrofitting presents an opportunity to embrace innovation and incorporate cutting-edge technologies and design trends into your workspace. Explore sustainable building materials, energy-efficient systems, and smart technologies that enhance productivity and comfort for occupants.

2. Invest in Smart Technology 

Not sure if you left the aircon on over the long weekend? With remotely controlled appliances, you don’t have to. The same goes for security systems. Locks can be activated with a simple phone app. Smart technology can turn a dated building into a modern-day, efficient workspace.

This technology isn’t limited to systems designed for convenience and accessibility. It can also help you reduce CO2 emissions. This greatly benefits the environment, and could significantly reduce your utility and maintenance costs over time. How can you get this technology to work for you? It starts with a continuous commissioning strategy.

3. Implement a Continuous Commissioning Strategy 

Retrofits are ripe opportunities to implement a continuous commissioning strategy. The system – pioneered by professors and researchers at Texas A&M University – is an ongoing way to monitor a building's energy efficiency based on real-time data tracking. Sensors can be installed to assess the usage of:

  •  Lighting,
  • Heating & cooling,
  • Ventilation & fresh air cycling,
  • Water,
  • and Electricity

…in further detail than a standard utility monitor. This real-time data can then be assessed against building occupancy rates to get a clearer picture of where a building is wasting energy. With sensor data, smart technology can be used to automate lights, heating, cooling, and more; reducing emissions along with energy costs.

Once set up, continuous commissioning strategies are most autonomous, allowing for simple incremental changes to be made over time.

4. Upgrading Your Current Facilities

If you’re not ready to invest heavily in smart technology and tracking, a simple upgrade could be all you need to cut costs. Utilities (lights, HVAC, etc.) often contribute to over half of your building's energy use. Installing modern systems designed for energy efficiency can help you save costs over time. This is especially true in much older buildings. 

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Challenges and Considerations

1. Structural Integrity and Building Codes

Before embarking on a retrofit project, it's essential to assess the structural integrity of the building and ensure compliance with relevant building codes and regulations. Consulting with experienced architects and engineers can help address potential challenges and ensure that the retrofit meets safety standards. Canopy Fitouts also has deep experience across a diverse range of industries (including heritage-listed spaces). We can work with you to ensure your retrofit is done to exacting standards. 

2. Design Flexibility and Adaptability

Retrofitting presents unique design challenges, as existing structures may have limitations in terms of layout and spatial configuration. However, these challenges also offer opportunities for creativity and innovation, allowing businesses to reimagine their space in ways that maximise functionality and aesthetic appeal. 

In our most recent work for Itinerant Spirits, there were many in-built limitations within the beautiful heritage-listed goods shed. Our team came together to develop innovative solutions to these challenges, creating an ultra-modern space that’s equally rustic.

3. Public Visibility & Engagement 

If retrofitting for sustainability, technology goes a long way. And public engagement can further shorten the time it takes to reach and maintain these goals. When embarking on a new fitout project, make it known what green initiatives will be measured and invite building occupants to participate in the program. Once the retrofit is complete, share routine updates or install real-time dashboards to help occupants track the impact of their energy use over time. 

4. Finding the Right Experts

Retrofitting requires a multidisciplinary approach involving architects, engineers, contractors, and other professionals with expertise in adaptive reuse. Collaborating with experienced professionals ensures that your retrofit project is executed seamlessly, from conceptualization to completion.

With over 800 projects completed across 37 different industries, we have an unprecedented amount of experience in creating efficient, inspiring spaces

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Combine Heritage & Modernity With Canopy Fitouts

Sustainability saves our history. Sustainability saves on energy costs. And when the retrofit is done right you get the perfect balance of heritage and modernity all in one beautiful space. 

Ready to learn more about how a fitout can improve your space? Check out this guide. If you’re on the path to a new retrofit or fitout, speak to our team today and we’d be more than happy to give you advice on cost, budgets, requirements, and timeframes for your office or commercial fitout. Give us a call at 1800 434 868 or email info@canopyfitouts.com.au.