What is soft story retrofitting?

Before speaking about soft-story retrofit, let us tell what is building retrofitting itself and what it is for.
Retrofitting is the process of modifying or renovating something (buildings, houses, etc) that had been manufactured before it.

A retrofitting process includes changing or improving the structure or systems of buildings after their original occupation or construction.
During retrofitting, all the needed features and facilities of the buildings are improved, as well as, the performance of them. 
Since the technologies are being developed day by day, building retrofits are now also able to reduce water and energy usage remarkably.

Soft-story buildings

A soft-story building is a multi-level structure placed over a ground level with relatively great size, in which and often more floors have windows, traditionally wide doors, some commercial areas where shear walls can normally be required for firmness used to be directed to earthquake engineering design.
The weakest parts of the buildings are structurally reinforced to resist seismic movement during earthquakes and so often l-beans and structural steel connectors are used. They mostly are used to carry strengthen the weak sections of structures.

Single-family residential building retrofitting

Single-family residential buildings are most often called homes or houses. Multi-family residential buildings containing more than one dwelling unit are called an apartment building or a duplex. A condominium is an apartment that the occupant has rather than rents. Houses may also be built in pairs that are also called semi-detached, in terraces where all but two of the houses have others either side; apartments may be built round courtyards or as rectangular blocks enclosed by a piece of ground of varying sizes. Houses that were built as a single dwelling may later be divided into apartments or bedsitters; they may also be converted to another use e.g. an office or a shop. Building types may range from huts to multimillion-dollar high-rise apartment blocks able to house thousands of people. Increasing settlement density in buildings is usually a response to high ground prices resulting from many people wanting to live close to work or similar attractors.
There are also other common building materials, such as concrete and a combination of stones and bricks.

Residential buildings have various names in their use, depending when they are seasonal include holiday cottage also known as vacation home, or timeshare; stilt house or tree house, size such as a great house or cottage; value, manner of construction such as a mobile home or log home; proximity to the ground such as earth sheltered house, etc... If the residents need special care such as an orphanage or prison and nursing home, or in group housing like dormitories or barracks. So many people historically lived in communal buildings called longhouses, smaller dwellings which are called pit-houses and houses combined with barns, not always, but sometimes called house barns. Buildings are defined to be considerable, permanent structures so other dwelling forms such as yurts and houseboats or motor homes are dwellings and never can be considered as buildings.

Technologies and categories

Some technologies and categories of technologies apply to water and energy efficiency. Although each building may have different technology so it is always important to get advice from qualified building professionals before starting any works.

There are four main categories of building retrofit technologies which are divided into three different types - demand-side management, energy consumption patterns and supply-side management. 

earthquake proof buildings in Los Angeles

Categories of building retrofit technologies


  • Heating and cooling demand reduction - building fabric insulations, windows retrofits, cool roofs, and cool coatings and airtightness.
  • Energy-efficient equipment and low energy technologies - control upgrade, natural ventilation, lighting upgrade, thermal storage, energy-efficient equipment and appliances, heat recovery and others.
  • Human factors - comfort requirements, occupancy regimes, management and maintenance, occupant activities and access to controls.
  • Renewable energy technologies and electrical system retrofits - solar thermal system, wind power system, biomass system, geothermal power system, and electric system retrofits.

Building retrofit technologies

Building retrofit technologies provide various resources and methods that allow designers, planners, and owners to concentrate on energy-use purposes from the very first planning into after-retrofit monitoring.
So, meet some of the main technologies which are being run across often:

Demand-side management

  • Absorption chillers - generating the chilled wanter air conditioning systems in need to provide cooling, in a word they have the same principal functions as conventional ones
  • Blade servers - they are almost the same as computer servers, why almost? Because they do not include possibilities to network or cool components, however, some servers are installed in a special chassis, which provides the missing functions instead.
  • Chilled beams - chilled beams are instead of an air conditioning system, just as an alternative. They are used at the ceiling level. Pipe shaped stuff that contains cold water fro the chillers of the building run through the beam, which cools it down.
  • Cooling towers - these are heat rejection tools that take the heat removed from buildings by its air conditioning system and vanish it out of the buildings.
  • Variable speed drives - air conditioning system components traditionally have used motors. They can only be switched off or on and they operate at a fixed speed, as variable speed drives allow the components to make changes the speed they operate at to better match the load that is being put on them.

Energy consumption patterns

  • Building management systems - they are used to control the operation of buildings. Those systems involve ventilation and air conditioning, as well as heating, security, lighting, plumbing, building access, and all the fire services.
  • Wind energy - Sometimes wind turbines are incorporated into buildings' designs for reducing the demand for electricity. The cost and its quality of being suitable mainly depend on the buildings' location and the weather conditions.
  • Natural ventilation - this system allows outside air to go through buildings without mechanical aids usage. Natural ventilation may not be suitable for areas with a high level of dust, for example, or exhaust fumes in the air.
  • Lighting - plenty of options are now available to make artificial lighting systems more efficient. However ambient lighting and task lighting are the most used options during recent years.

Supply-side management

  • Cogeneration - by just using a single fuel, cogeneration plants supply thermal and also power energy. They work in the same way as diesel or natural gas through running a single fuel. The cogeneration system can be set up for serving multiple or one building. And one of their advantages is to use less water for generating power compared with conventional electricity generation plants.
  • Motion sensors - Motion sensors are for the detection in people moving in an exact area. They are for controlling different systems, let it be air conditioning on/off in rooms where there are no movements is detected, or turning lights and so on.
  • Night Purge - In general air conditioning is turned off during the night in typical commercial buildings and is on only during working hours. So the night purge system is for law-energy solutions to provide safety overnights when there are no people around. These systems force the heat out of the buildings during the night.
  • Solar energy - solar energy is used in commercial buildings in two main types: water heating and electricity generation. One of the most known problems associated with the solar energy system is its cost. They are quite expensive to set up, and often the savings which are made over the solar system's usage, will not be enough to regain the investments.