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On the other hand, refurbishment refers to defective or outdated parts, components or surfaces being repaired or replaced, with no major changes in the load-bearing structure (Giebeler et al., 2009).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?


Thaleia Konstantinou
Thaleia Konstantinou
Associate Professor

Dr. Ing. Thaleia Konstantinou is Associate Professor in the Department of Architectural Engineering & Technology at the TU Delft Faculty of Architecture. Her activities are related to research and education, focusing on energy efficiency, façade and design of constructions. She graduated her MSc in Environmental Design and Engineering with distinction from The Bartlett School of Graduate Studies, University College London. During and after her studies, she has worked as an architect in Greek and international practices. She completed her PhD at TU Delft in 2014 on the topic of façade refurbishment strategies as part of the research program “Green Building Innovation”. Following this she worked as a post-doc researcher in various projects related to refurbishment and sustainability. 

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Circularity for Educators

The platform is intended to provide with content on either circularity or pedagogy for and about circularity. It is one of the outcomes of the Circular Impulse Initiative (CII), a project intending to enhance the integration of circularity in the Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment education. The platform mainly aims to help tutors get better acquainted with circularity in the built environment by providing a series of resources on this subject that they can either view to get better informed or directly share with their students in class or online. A large number of the Faculty's professors and researchers have contributed substantially both in creating a coherent narrative for circularity in the built environment as well as further elaborating on different aspects of it. Besides this one, a new platform for interaction and direct exchange was also established in parallel that we call ‘Educators for Circularity‘. This one offers the opportunity for all of us to meet and share our experiences and learn from one another.

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