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There are no quick fixes to long-term energy challenges. To find solutions, governments and industry benefit from sharing resources and accelerating results. For this reason the IEA enables independent groups of experts - the Energy Technology Initiatives, or ETIs1.

Buildings and Communities

Factory assembling of a large, prefabricated façade module (Austria).*

Real savings with retrofits

Policy context
Near-zero energy consumption in new – and existing - buildings and communities is possible. Designing a carefully chosen research and development (R&D) strategy will enable the building industries to move from incremental — to substantial — energy savings and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.  

The aim of the ETI focusing on efficiency in buildings and communities (EBC) is to take advantage of energy-saving opportunities to remove technical obstacles to market penetration of new energy conservation technologies for community systems and residential, commercial, and office buildings.  To implement this strategy, EBC activities focus on dissemination, decision-making and building systems.  There are currently 27 Contracting Parties, including China and Israel. 

The main challenge to achieving energy conservation in the buildings sector is designing technologies and systems for existing buildings — approximately 80% of all buildings in OECD countries. 

Some energy savings can be achieved through renovating building components such as windows, roofs, facades or heating systems. However, full‑building retrofits achieve substantial energy savings.

The EBC project, Prefabricated Systems for Low Energy Renovation of Residential Buildings,investigated the effectiveness of building renovation through the use of large, prefabricated renovation modules for both façades and roofs.

The study demonstrated that substantial energy savings are possible in typical apartment buildings that represent approximately 40% of European dwellings. Retrofits of 350 apartments measured as part of the study demonstrated energy savings between 80% to 90% or 30 kilowatt hours per square metre per year (kWh/m2/yr) to 50kWh/m2/yr. The prefabricated modules can be applied to many types of existing buildings and allow for larger window sizes, and ventilation systems integrated into the façade. Retrofits in the study were found to extend living space, for example, by incorporating balconies into apartments or by creating new rooftop apartments.

Retrofits also present advantages compared to demolition and rebuilding. This includes, for example, reduction in construction cost, time and local disturbance, minimal waste and long-term reduction in CO2 emissions. 

* Photo courtesy of Gap-solution GmbH (Austria).

Current projects

  • Air infiltration and ventilation centre
  • Development and demonstration of financial and technical concepts for deep energy retrofits
  • Energy-efficient communities
  • Evaluation of embodied energy and CO2 emissions for building construction
  • High-temperature cooling, micro-generation and cost-effective energy and CO2 emissions optimisation in building renovation 
  • Low‑temperature heating in buildings
  • New generation computational tools
  • Related energy technologies in buildings
  • Reliable building energy performance characterisation based on full-scale dynamic measurements
  • Reliability of energy efficient building retrofitting
  • Towards net zero energy solar buildings
  • Total energy use in buildings: analysis and evaluation methods

For more information: 


1.Information or material of the IEA Energy Technology Initiatives, or ETIs (formally organised under the auspices of an Implementing Agreement), including information or material published on this website, does not necessarily represent the views or policies of the IEA Secretariat or of the IEA’s individual Member countries. The IEA does not make any representation or warranty (express or implied) in respect of such information (including as to its completeness, accuracy or non-infringement) and shall not be held liable for any use of, or reliance on, such information.