A German company has developed a system for retro-fitting existing buildings with a second skin that can significantly reduce emissions
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Spotted: One of the big challenges to reaching net zero is converting existing buildings to reduce their carbon footprint. It is simply not feasible to tear down existing structures and replace them with purpose-built net zero buildings, and in many cases, it is also not economically viable to add elements such as insulation or heating pumps to older buildings. In response, German startup Ecoworks is tackling this problem from the outside. The company develops a second skin with built-in insulation designed to help buildings radically cut energy use.
Ecoworks begins with a 3D scan of the building, which is used to create a digital twin. Using this twin, the company develops plans for panels which will fit over the existing walls. Robots then assemble the panels, which are complete with windows, ventilation, channels for pipes, and solar panels on the roof. On-site, skilled workers can install the panels rapidly, completing the project in a few weeks.
This approach works best with buildings that have a simple exterior structure, such as apartment complexes. However, Ecoworks has plans to expand the concept to less uniform buildings, such as schools and single-family homes. In one project—which involved a 1930s apartment complex—the building went from using 450 kilowatt-hours of energy per square metre, to having negative emissions and feeding excess energy back into the grid.
The push to decarbonise existing buildings is just getting started, but already we are seeing some fascinating innovations in this space. Springwise has already covered a number of these, including an SaaS platform geared to helping real estate investors lower their environmental impact, as well as zero carbon buildings made from ceramics.
Written By: Lisa Magloff