How far can low emission retrofit of terraced housing in Northern Ireland go?

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With both global and national targets to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions the improvement of existing buildings will be key to realising these ambitions. How this can be achieved, and the impact of whole-life emissions from retrofit remains a key question. This paper investigates the potential of retrofit to reduce and limit lifecycle GHG emissions resulting from an existing house, typical of one of the predominant housing typologies in Northern Ireland. Through the use of lifecycle assessment a range of retrofit scenarios are considered for an early 20th century, solid wall, terraced house, to understand the impacts of retrofit on lifecycle emissions. A range of retrofit scenarios were modelled and simulated, considering both embodied and operational emissions over the building’s lifetime, to understand how net emissions can be reduced. The results show that although fabric and some technological measures can reduce emissions by over 60% when applied in isolation, a holistic approach is required to achieve the greatest reductions. Although operation remains the largest single source of emissions, the results also show the importance of taking a holistic approach to the assessment of retrofit with varying lifecycle stages responsible for considerable emissions. It is seen that emissions reductions of up to 99% may be possible when taking a holistic approach to retrofit and its assessment, considering whole-life emissions. This study highlights the potential benefits of retrofit and how it could be effectively applied to the existing housing stock in Northern Ireland creating low-emission or net-zero emission buildings.
Original languageEnglish
Article number015010
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalEnvironmental Research: Infrastructure and Sustainability
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 8 Mar 2024

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Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 The Author(s). Published by IOP Publishing Ltd.


  • energy efficiency
  • GHG emissions
  • retrofit
  • renewable energy
  • life-cycle analysis


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