Key challenges of managing building adaptation and retrofit projects

Structural Survey

ISSN: 0263-080X

Article publication date: 4 November 2014



Ankrah, N.A. and Ahadzie, D.K. (2014), "Key challenges of managing building adaptation and retrofit projects", Structural Survey, Vol. 32 No. 5.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Key challenges of managing building adaptation and retrofit projects

Article Type: Guest editorial From: Structural Survey, Volume 32, Issue 5

Building adaptation is a broad concept embracing renovation, refurbishment, remodelling, reinstatement, retrofitting, rehabilitation, and recycling of buildings, with the intent of maximising retention of original structure and fabric, and extending a building's useful life (Wilkinson et al., 2009). It is necessitated by the existence of a huge building stock that often does not meet modern standards or requirements. Although there is still on-going debate on the merits of the evidence supporting climate change, it is widely acknowledged that this building stock makes a significant contribution to the CO2 emissions that are considered to be partly responsible for the current global warming phenomenon. The potential impacts of this phenomenon which have been articulated by many academics and eloquently summarised in the seminal report of Professor Nicholas Stern (2006) have resulted in many initiatives to raise the sustainability standards required of buildings, and infrastructure generally, across the globe. The reality, however, is that much of the current building stock does not meet such standards. Considering concerns for heritage and other factors, demolition and replacement of the existing stock may not necessarily be a viable solution. Indeed evidence collated by Boardman (2007) shows that even at accelerated rates of replacement, turnover of the housing stock would be insufficient to address the challenges highlighted above.

The ever-pressing need to respond to climate change challenges and stringent/ambitious sustainability standards has therefore led to a significant growth in adaptation and retrofit projects towards achieving low-carbon, energy-efficient and environmentally friendly buildings better able to cope with an increasing demand for sustainability in modern infrastructure projects. Indeed, in many economies, an effective response to these sustainability demands is deemed vital, not just for environmental reasons, but more importantly for long-term economic prosperity (see, e.g. IGT, 2010). These sustainability demands coupled with the uncertainty and risk of adaptation projects, close proximity of other buildings, new technologies and laws demand project managers, designers, and other construction professionals to be ingeniously versatile in adapting and applying appropriate and effective management and design solutions to adaptation building projects.

This special issue of Structural Survey seeks to highlight the specific adaptation challenges that project managers and other construction professionals in this sector need to respond to, and explore the dynamics between context (social, regulatory, technological, cultural, etc.) competencies, and practices, and their impacts on navigating the challenges of major project delivery, as required for adaptation building projects.

This special edition contains seven papers reporting on very interesting topics on managing adaptation and retrofit projects in Ghana, the USA, Nigeria, the UK, Singapore, and New Zealand. The regional spread of the papers, namely from sub-Saharan Africa, North America, Asia, Oceania, and Europe is a reflection of the fact that the key challenges of project management in relation to building adaptation and retrofitting are as much a global phenomenon as they are location specific, and therefore require an international knowledge management approach. Drawing on the combined methodology of constructive dialogue, condition survey and case studies, Oppong and Masahudu explore the key challenges as manifested in the refurbishment of rural banks in a rapidly emerging urban financial environment in Ghana. Key issues raised border on inadequate legislation and especially the refusal of the sponsors of these projects to adhere to planning regulations and its related safety security concerns. Given that building adaptation is still an emerging phenomenon in Ghana, Oppong and Masahudu draw on the lessons learnt and discusses the wider implication for the project management practices in Ghana.

Also reporting on Ghana, Addy et al., discuss architects’ perceptions of the challenges of achieving energy efficiency in buildings. Using documentation review, questionnaire survey, and factor analysis, the paper provides an important insight into the realities of the contextual challenges in implementing building energy efficiency in Ghana. It is interesting to note that, at a time that Ghana is facing unprecedented energy problems, architects appear to put much of the blame on external factors and not what they can do within their means towards designing energy efficient buildings.

From the US perspective, Duah et al. present a study which sought to provide an understanding and solving the information barriers to the adaption of energy retrofits in existing homes and in the end developed expert knowledge elicitation for decision making in home energy retrofit. This is then followed by Efeoma and Uduku, who report on an appropriate thermal comfort assessment method for determining human thermal comfort and energy-efficient temperature control in office buildings in Nigeria, Enugu, southeastern Nigeria. The study compares adaptive component of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) standard 55 and the European Community for Standardizations (CEN/EN) 15251 and suggests that the ASHRAE 5 may be more suitable for thermal comfort assessment of office buildings in tropical west African climates. Also reporting from the UK, Tucker et al. introduce the subject of improving moisture management in insulation used in lofts of refurbished structures. Based on experimental work, Tucker et al. conclude that the amount of water vapour on bio-insulations can be significantly lower than that normally above stone wool insulation and proposes further areas of research. Such empirical evidence of performance of bio-insulation in practice will be of significant interest to designers and project managers involved in refurbishment works who are constantly seeking new ecological bio-based materials to meet the requirements of environmental certification schemes.

Drawing on the pioneering issues of climate change, Sui Pheng et al. provide an insight into the success factors that need to be considered in greening new and existing buildings in Singapore. The paper adduces the ten top critical success factors (CSF) in various building categories that can be used to guide the profile of the green agenda in existing and new buildings. Also writing from New Zealand, Egbelakin et al. illuminate on the economic challenges that may affect successful retrofit decisions in earthquake prone areas in New Zealand and provide guidelines that city/urban managers can focus on towards ensuring that property owners participate actively in earthquake risk mitigation. Indeed, these papers reflect the universal nature of project management as a global discipline, as well as the distinct regional challenges that need to be understood and built upon towards ensuring sustainable project management practice for building adaptation and retrofitting challenges.

Dr Divine K. Ahadzie - Centre for Settlements Studies, College of Architecture and Planning, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana

Dr Nii A. Ankrah- School of Technology, University of Wolverhampton, Wolverhampton, UK


The following people need to be thanked for their efforts in bringing this special issue together: Professor David Proverbs of the University of the West of England (UWE); Dr Mark Shelbourn also of UWE; Abi Masha and Stephanie Hull of Emerald Group Publishing and all their colleagues.


Boardman, B. (2007), “Examining the carbon agenda via the 40% house scenario”, Building Research & Information, Vol. 35 No. 4, pp. 363-378

IGT (2010), Low Carbon Construction: Emerging Findings, Innovation & Growth Team, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, HM Government, London

Stern, N. (2006), The Economics of Climate Change, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge

Wilkinson, S.J., James, K. and Reed, R. (2009), “Using building adaptation to deliver sustainability in Australia”, Structural Survey, Vol. 27 No. 1, pp. 46-61

Related articles