Building EnvelopeContinuous InsulationSustainabilityA2P1053: Retrofitting Existing Buildings with Continuous Insulation: Challenges and Solutions

June 20, 2023


Continuous insulation is an increasingly important part of modern building design, responsible for helping to improve the energy efficiency of buildings and creating more comfortable living and working spaces. As the need for energy conservation continues to increase, retrofitting existing buildings with continuous insulation is becoming a more urgent task. However, there are various challenges that come with retrofitting existing buildings, such as access to uneven substrates, moisture management, and structural limitations.

This article will provide readers with a comprehensive overview of the challenges associated with retrofitting existing buildings with continuous insulation and the solutions that can be employed to navigate these obstacles. Readers will gain an understanding of successful solutions for retrofitting existing buildings with GreenGirt Delta Adjustable continuous insulation systems, ensuring optimal energy efficiency and improved comfort.

Understanding Continuous Insulation and Its Applications for Existing Buildings

Continuous insulation is a type of insulation that is continuous and uninterrupted throughout the entire assembly. It is designed to provide a higher level of thermal performance and energy efficiency than traditional insulation materials. Key characteristics of best practice continuous insulation systems include higher R-value, minimal or no thermal improving, improved fire resistance, and reduced condensation risk.

The use of continuous insulation in existing buildings has many benefits. Notably, the improved thermal performance of continuous insulation can help to reduce energy consumption and cost. Additionally, it can improve the overall indoor comfort and air quality, decrease noise levels, and reduce the risk of condensation. The improved performance of continuous insulation can also help to meet new energy codes and regulations, as many are now requiring the use of continuous insulation when retrofitting existing buildings.

Key Challenges in Retrofitting Continuous Insulation

Retrofitting continuous insulation to an existing building can be a complex process that poses several challenges. In this section, we will discuss the key challenges faced by professionals when designing and installing CI systems in existing structures, including the following:

  1. Varying Substrates Within the Same Structure

One of the main challenges in retrofitting CI is dealing with different types of substrates within the same structure. These substrates may include brick, concrete, metal or wood studs, or combinations thereof. Each substrate has its unique characteristics, which may require different installation methods, fasteners, and installation methods. This diversity can make it difficult to design and implement a consistent CI solution for the entire building envelope.


  1. Uneven Walls and Plane Deviations

Older buildings often have uneven wall surfaces and plane deviations, which can create challenges when trying to achieve a continuous insulation layer. These irregularities may require additional labor and materials to ensure a proper fit and maintain the integrity of the CI system. In some cases, wall leveling or surface preparation may be necessary before installing the insulation system.

Stanley Center for Peace and Justice | GreenGirt Delta Adjustable System

  1. Moisture Management

Moisture is a critical concern when retrofitting CI, as trapped moisture within the building envelope can lead to mold growth, structural damage, and reduced thermal performance. It is essential to consider the placement of vapor barriers, drainage planes, and ventilation strategies when designing a CI retrofit. Proper detailing around windows, doors, and other penetrations is also crucial to prevent moisture infiltration and condensation issues.


  1. Structural Limitations

Existing buildings may have structural limitations that affect the feasibility and design of a CI retrofit. For example, adding insulation to the exterior of a building may increase the overall weight, which could exceed the structure’s load bearing capacity. Additionally, some buildings may have limited space for adding insulation.


  1. Compatibility with Existing Systems

Retrofitting CI requires careful consideration of how the new insulation system will interact with existing building components, such as cladding, roofing, and mechanical systems. Incompatibility between materials or improper installation can lead to premature failure or reduced performance of the CI system. It is crucial to select appropriate materials and installation methods that work seamlessly with the existing structure.


  1. Building Code Compliance

Building codes and energy efficiency standards have evolved significantly over time, and older buildings may not meet current requirements. Retrofitting CI can help bring a structure up to code. Professionals must carefully review local and regional building codes to ensure compliance throughout the retrofit process.


  1. Cost and Budget Constraints

Lastly, cost and budget constraints can pose significant challenges in retrofitting CI. Factors such as labor, materials, and potential modifications to the existing structure can drive up project costs. The return on investment (ROI) through energy savings and improved occupant comfort should be considered when evaluating the feasibility of a CI retrofit. Proper planning, material selection, and installation methods can help to minimize costs and maximize the long-term benefits of continuous insulation.

Measuring Up to Building Performance Standards

In recent years, advancements in continuous insulation (CI) systems have made it possible to achieve higher levels of energy efficiency and building performance. One such innovative solution is the GreenGirt Delta Adjustable continuous insulation system. This section will discuss the benefits of this versatile CI system, how it overcomes retrofitting challenges, and best practices for efficient installation.

Latest Advancements: GreenGirt Delta Adjustable Continuous Insulation System

GreenGirt Delta Adjustable Sub-Framing System

The GreenGirt Delta Adjustable continuous insulation system is designed to provide a high-performance, best practice, thermally efficient building envelope solution. This system incorporates adjustable composite metal hybrid (CMH) base brackets paired with metal or CMH rails or clips, that allow for adjustability and easy installation on uneven surfaces and varying substrates, making it an ideal solution for retrofitting existing buildings. Its design also addresses moisture management and thermal bridging, ensuring a durable and energy-efficient building envelope. The adjustable base brackets and rails serve as a primary support for the insulation material and cladding attachment, ensuring a continuous insulation layer across the entire building envelope.

Versatile Solution for Retrofitting Existing Buildings

580 Pleasant Lab Building - GreenGirt Delta Adjustable System

GreenGirt Delta Adjustable CI system offers a versatile solution for overcoming many of the challenges associated with retrofitting existing structures. By addressing the following issues, this system ensures a successful retrofit:

  1. Varying substrates: The adjustable base brackets can accommodate a wide range of substrates, ensuring a consistent and secure installation across different materials.
  2. Uneven walls and plane deviations: The adjustable nature of the girts allows for easy alignment and leveling, simplifying the installation process on uneven surfaces.
  3. Moisture management: GreenGirt Delta eliminates thermal bridging which can cause condensation within the building envelope. It can also be combined with appropriate vapor barrier materials. This helps control the diffusion of moisture through the wall assembly and minimizes condensation risks.
  4. Structural limitations: GreenGirt Delta consists of a composite metal hybrid (CMH) material which combines the structural strength of steel with the lightweight feature of composite. The design of the GreenGirt Delta system minimizes additional structural loads, making it suitable for buildings with load bearing constraints.
  5. Compatibility with existing systems: The system’s adaptability ensures seamless integration with existing cladding, roofing, or additional building envelope systems.
  6. Building code compliance: By enhancing thermal performance and meeting energy efficiency requirements, the GreenGirt Delta system helps bring buildings up to code.
  7. Cost and budget constraints: The adjustable base brackets and rails within the GreenGirt Delta system simplifies the installation process, reducing labor costs by accommodating uneven walls and plane deviations without the need for extensive surface preparation and leveling. In addition, GreenGirt Delta’s ability to work with a wide range of substrates and materials minimizes the need for additional materials, lowering overall project costs. Lastly, the durable design of the GreenGirt Delta system ensures long-lasting performance with minimal maintenance costs.


By addressing these challenges and following best practices, the GreenGirt Delta Adjustable continuous insulation system provides a comprehensive solution for retrofitting existing buildings, ensuring they measure up to modern building performance standards. This innovative system not only improves energy efficiency and occupant comfort, but also contributes to a more sustainable and resilient built environment.

To learn more about the GreenGirt Delta Adjustable continuous insulation solution for new or retrofit projects, visit our website or contacting us today!


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