Basic Terms and Definitions
Understanding Refurbishment, Renovation and Retrofit: Join the discussion
In current practice, refurbishment is often used interchangeably with renovation.
Renovation is a term widely used to express a range of construction activities related to interventions onto existing buildings. They range from simple repairs and maintenance, restricted to replacement or repair of defective components, to adaptive conversion and reuse, which affect the load-bearing structure and interior layout. Giebeler (2009) places renovation works close to maintenance and cosmetic repairs that do not add new components.
On the other hand, refurbishment refers to defective or outdated parts, components or surfaces being repaired or replaced, with no major changes in the load-bearing structure (Giebeler et al., 2009). The upgrade of fire protection, acoustics, and thermal performance can be achieved through the building’s refurbishment. Additionally, during the refurbishment, buildings can be retrofitted with technologies for energy generation from renewable sources. Retrofits are defined as the strengthening, upgrading, or fitting of extra equipment to a building once the building is completed (Gorse et al., 2012). In this sense, refurbishment and retrofits are very similar as activities, as they both address replacing and upgrading building components.
In the context of circularity, refurbishment is a relevant term, as a strategy for prolonging a product’s life-span, while the term renovation is widely used in the building industry and policy documents, particularly with regards the energy transition. It is considered to encompass measures that refurbish or retrofit building components. When is refurbishment the right strategy for prolonging a product’s life span? How does the refurbishment of building components relate to circularity and to energy transition?