We’re used to hearing about old buildings getting “facelifts.” But why make a few nips and tucks when you can get a whole new skin? Re-skinning, essentially putting an entirely new facade on a building, can save an older structure when standard retrofits like installing insulation fail to make it more energy-efficient.
There’s no one approach to re-skinning. The winners of the ZEROPrize, a re-skinning award from ZeroFootprint (in conjunction with UNHabitat and others), worked on a variety of structures from a typical single-family house in Toronto to a large bank headquarters in Ludwigshafen, Germany. The former, a 60-year-old bungalow called the Now House, achieved an energy savings of 70% after it was given a new envelope with high-quality insulation and a new roof with integrated solar panels, among other improvements.
The most beautiful project in the winners circle was 355 Eleventh, a small industrial building in San Francisco. Aidlin Darling Architects replaced the original steel cladding with a new skin of perforated, corrugated metal laid over new walls that included operable windows (something the original building lacked). The result is a striking, modern building full of light and natural ventilation that still retains its historic character. The retrofit reduced energy consumption enough to earn the building a LEED Gold designation.
Images of 355 Eleventh by Aidlin Darling Architects via ZEROPrize
Pay attention to upcoming data about certain kinds of insulation. Re-skinning with thick layers of certain kinds of foam may take decades to recoup the expenditure of greenhouse gasses. Re-skinning will certainly save energy - but if the goal is reduction of climate-change gasses, then one needs to take care with the choice of insulation. This will be breaking news soon.
This is the first I've heard of re-skinning. It seems like a viable alternative to rebuilding, and I'm sure that it can save a lot on energy costs when compared to older buildings that were not built with energy conservation in mind. I especially like the idea of combining the new skin with the installation of solar panels.
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