A step-by-step process to retrofit and decarbonise commercial and public buildings.

Knowing where to start your decarbonisation journey can be challenging. Following this four-step strategy will help you to achieve your carbon reduction ambitions

Step 1. Understand energy use within the building

A successful retrofit journey starts with you having a good understanding of current energy use in your building. Investing time in learning how your building uses energy will help you to:

  • understand the key terms and technologies on the market
  • give you confidence around energy efficiency and decarbonisation
  • identify simple no-cost and low-cost energy efficiency solutions
  • identify where investment is needed

Evaluate your energy use

  • Thermal energy used to heat the building
  • Electrical energy used for lighting, building services, equipment and appliances
  • Performance of building components such as:
    • fabric - heat loss and air tightness
    • windows and doors - heat loss, air tightness and overheating
    • heating and cooling systems - efficiency and distribution of your system
    • ventilation systems - type of system and efficiency
    • lighting - efficiency and controls

Energy audits

A good place to start is with an energy audit. It will give you a lot of information about energy use in your building, such as:

  • a detailed analysis of your energy use
  • an understanding of where you use the most energy in your business
  • opportunities for reducing your energy use, from no or low cost to capital intensive projects

SEAI’s Energy Audit Handbook provides clear guidance for a typical energy audit process. It covers audit preparation and pre-analysis through to a site visit and reporting your findings. It is particularly useful for anyone planning their first energy audit.

Additional resources

  • Energy bills are a useful source of information about your building's energy use.
  • Your building's BER rating will help you understand the specifications of building components and potential for energy retrofit.
  • Check to see if your building has a Display Energy Certificate and review it for insight into operational energy use.
  • Public bodies can review their buildings' energy performance on the SEAI monitoring and reporting system.

SEAI Energy Academy is a free online learning resource to help you understand your energy use and learn about different energy systems and technologies.

Learn more about the SEAI Energy Academy

Step 2. Create a pathway to decarbonisation

All buildings benefit from a strategic approach to decarbonisation. Planning for future projects and organising the right people to implement your plans is integral to the success of your long term goals.

It's key that solutions for improving energy efficiency and achieving decarbonisation across your buildings are set out in a pathway. This will future-proof your building and avoid locking in fossil fuels. Tackling carbon emissions associated with thermal energy use is critical to meeting 2030 and 2050 targets. Energy efficiency and decarbonisation of the national grid won't be enough.

Components of a successful decarbonisation pathway include:

  • An understanding of your buildings' energy use, carbon emissions and opportunities for improvement.
  • Identification of stepped solutions and development of an action plan which follows the energy efficiency first principle:
    • reduce your energy demand
    • improve efficiency of supply
    • integrate renewable solutions
  • Preparation of business cases which address budget and programme needs.
  • Securing buy-in from decision makers and commitment at senior level to this pathway to decarbonisation.
  • Identification of those responsible for implementing and managing the plan.
  • A plan for tracking performance and continuous improvement.

Step 3. Invest in energy efficiency upgrades and renewables

You now have an approved strategy and pathway in place for your building. This means you can think about energy efficiency upgrades and renewable energy. Following the energy efficiency first principle outlined in Step 2, these include:

  • fabric and window upgrades
  • lighting and equipment upgrades, including infrastructure for conversion to electric vehicles
  • renewable source of heat such as a heat pump
  • solar photovoltaics

Large scale projects will need a robust business case and financial appraisal. As part of this assessment you can consider:

  • Funding sources and procurement routes such as energy performance contracts.
  • Appointing accredited professionals to ensure compliance with health and safety, and building regulations.
  • Training the people responsible for the building's operational energy so they can ensure optimum energy performance.

Grant schemes

Consider an SEAI grant scheme to support your capital investment.

Learn about SEAI grant schemes

Step 4. Verify savings and target further improvements

Your building's energy use will change over time. To maximise the impact of your decarbonisation strategy:

  • measure and verify that projects are delivering on expected savings
  • tackle identified underperforming areas before starting your next project
  • monitor your energy use regularly using your bills or meters
  • target improvements to understand which actions are the most effective and identify your next investment opportunity
  • report and document the outcomes

Energy management is key to sustained success

Use energy management to make sure you maintain a downward trajectory for your energy and carbon use. From basic energy management training available on the SEAI Energy Academy to ISO 50001 accreditation, SEAI supports organisations of every scale to embed Energy Management Systems into their practices. For more details see our Public Sector Energy Programme.

Measurement and verification

Measurement and verification will show that the level of projected savings from your retrofit project have been achieved and maintained. Engage a Certified Measurement and Verification Professional (CMVP) to help you with this process.

Monitoring and targeting

A programme of monitoring and targeting will structure your approach to maximising performance. This is part of your long term, continual improvement process. Learn how to use monitoring and targeting to deliver sustained emissions reductions at your organisation.

Download SEAI's Good Practice Guide to Monitoring and Targeting

Contact us

Get in touch with SEAI to learn more about how our supports can help you.

Email: publicsector@seai.ie or business@seai.ie