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What is a building retrofit?

Retrofitting is the process of modifying something after it has been manufactured.

A metal grid with greenery on a rooftop in a city

Retrofitting a building involves changing its systems or structure after its initial construction and occupation. This work can improve amenities for the building's occupants and improve the performance of the building. As technology develops, building retrofits can significantly reduce energy and water usage.

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There are a range of technologies applicable to energy and water efficiency. Not every technology will be suited to every building, so always get advice from a qualified building professional before undertaking any works.

Common building terms and definitions

During a refurbishment a building is improved above and beyond its initial condition.

Refurbishments are often focussed on aesthetics and tenant amenities, but they can also include upgrades to the building's mechanical systems and can improve energy and water efficiency.

Renovations are very similar to refurbishments and the terms are sometimes used interchangeably. The major difference is the term renovation applies specifically to buildings, while refurbishment does not.

As with refurbishments, renovations are often focussed on aesthetics and tenant amenities, but they may also include upgrades to the building's mechanical systems and potentially have an effect on energy and water efficiency.

Commissioning is the process where a building's systems are tested and adjusted to ensure they are functioning correctly.

Retro-commissioning is performing the same process on a building that has been operational and occupied for a period of time to ensure it keeps meeting the design intent and needs of the occupants. Some experts recommend retro-commissioning or re-commissioning a building once every three to five years.

If a building wasn't properly commissioned, has had changes to its systems and operating conditions made since commissioning, or has had its performance degrade over time, retro-commissioning may make its existing systems more efficient.

As with initial commissioning, retro-commissioning can be carried out by the contractors who installed the building s mechanical systems or by a third party who specialises in commissioning.

Building tune-up is a generic term that may encompass maintenance on the building's existing systems, or aspects of retrofitting and retro-commissioning. Many cities around Australia have implemented building tune-up programs with the goal of improving energy and water use efficiency.

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The City of Melbourne respectfully acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the land we govern, the Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung and Bunurong / Boon Wurrung peoples of the Kulin and pays respect to their Elders past and present. 


We acknowledge and honour the unbroken spiritual, cultural and political connection they have maintained to this unique place for more than 2000 generations.

We accept the invitation in the Uluru Statement from the Heart and are committed to walking together to build a better future.