DesignPuzzle Pieces

Energy standards

The building energy consumption represents about 40% of total energy consumption across Europe, this is fundamental to proceed with a massive renovation of the existing housing stock and the new homes must consume the lower possible amount of energy.

Different labels and standards for energy renovation have been developed during the las decades and often both users and investors have some confusion about the real energy level achieved following the different standards and about the real cost to reach them.

To clarify the situation some lectures have been given. During the meeting in Treviso in 2019 two important labels have been faced: the Passivehouse standard and the NZEB. During the meeting in Epinal in 2020 two different NZEB case study were presented: one in Italy and the other in UK.

Passive House costs by Stefan Reuther, PlanungsgruppeDrei

It’s important to specify that it’s very complicated to speak about of money for architect. It must be considered what kind of cost are we talking about? Construction costs, building services costs (technical staff), special costs (foundation), planning costs are all part of the total expense. Architects are focused on construction costs, not about life house costs.

On the other hand there is the value, that is different from the cost. In the value we have the energy saving, the sustainability, the comfort, the architectural quality, etc.

To discuss about the costs two case studies are presented.

The Buildtog in Darmstadt is a 3495 m2 a passivhouse. To reach the standard it was necessary to use very good windows, well designed insulation, ventilation with heat recovery, detailing thermal bridges. To make a comparison to identify the extra costs for the passive house a comparison with a “standard building” (simulated) was done.

Costs differences are connected with heating demand.The cost difference is about 470’900€ (less insulation, less performing windows, standard ventilation). The building construction is cheaper, including the planning costs and the extra costs. On the other hand the heating system is more expensive.

The second case study was Bremen passivhouse. It has 1475 m2 heated floor area. The standard building simulated has an increase of heating requirement of about 369%. In this building the cost difference is about 191’600€ due less insulation, less performing windows, standard systems etc.

Talking about rental costs: in Bremen they charge 6,50€ for a standard building and 10€ for apassivhouse. It must be considered that Bremen is not considered an easy place to build apassivehousesince the climate is cold and there is not much local know how so usually the cost is higher when you are the first in the market.

What is an NZEB and how much does it cost for new and refurbished buildings - case studies by Isaac Scaramella, greenLab

The concept of “NZEB” (Nearly Zero Energy Building”) was first defined in 2010 thanks to the European Directive 2010/31/EU. The EU definition says: nearly zero-energy building means a building that has a very high energy performance, as determined in accordance with Annex I.The nearly zero or very low amount of energy required should be covered to a very significant extent by energy from renewable sources, including energy from renewable sources produced on-site or nearby.”

Each member state must write a specific definition of NZEB including numerical indicators on primary energy use expressed in kWh/m2 per year.

At the moment it seems that local definitions are still lacking in many member states. Italy gave its definition in 2013 and the Regione Lombardia decided that from 1st January 2016 all new buildings in Lombardy have to be NZEB. Unfortunately even though this obligation the controls are not very strict so the obligation is not fully complied.

Basically a NZEB according to Italian definition is a building with very low energy consumption that uses renewable energy sources and produce renewable energy in place.

To be a NZEB you have to respect some parameters that take into account both winter energy saving and summer behavior. Among the different parameters some are more centered on the envelope while other on the system efficiency and energy production.

One parameter, called H’T, is the average global heat transfer coefficient for transmission per unit of dispersing surface. In its formula is clear that you can reach this parameter with low U value, but also thermal bridges are very significant, so you need to pay attention in details.

Asol,est/Asup, utile is the solar area per useful surface area, this parameter take into account the summer overheating, a real problem in Italy.

Energy performance (EP) for heating and also for cooling have different limits, so it’s difficult to reach both parameters and this parameter doesn’t take into account the real inertia of the building.

EPglobal considers all the factors and compared the designed building with a reference building with same parameters (place, area…). It’s very difficult to satisfay this parameter, because if you change something in the design it changes also in the reference building.

Talking about renewable energy an NZEB building must cover at least 50% of energy consumption with renewable energy and at least 50% of hot water must be produced with renewable energy. It’s possible to reach the first request with little consumption and a heat pump, but for the second one solar panels must be added.

According to this definition every building can be a Nzeb so both new buildings or existing building renovated.

Two case studied are presented: one about newbuild and the other about renovation. Both of them have similar characteristics in terms of system, insulation, renewable energy production.

The renovation has been a deep renovation with total internal demolition which lead to a total cost of 1331€/m2 (excluding design and VAT).

The new building is an home (not social housing building) easy to ménage, connected with the surrounding nature. The cost for a new NZEB is about 1704€/m2 (surface considered is the total net area, excluding design, VAT, ground). After one year monitoring is possible to see that pick of consumption is during winter time. The biggest amount of renewable energy production is in summer period, when the production is higher than the consumption. During winter solar panels are not enough. In 2019 energy production was 92% of energy consumption, considering heating, cooling, ventilation, hot water, lightning and electric equipment. Considering only heating, cooling, ventilation and hot water, as the NZEB definition do, the total coverage is about 160%. The monitoring shows another interesting thing: during the owners holiday, in winter, the building had an high consumption compared with other periods. The problem is that in this period there weren’t solar gains, because solar shadings were totally closed. This underline the importance of user behavior.

UK progress toward Nearly Zero Energy / Carbon Home by Gordon Watts, SYHA

After Brexit UK is going on its own way, different from EU; at the moment there is a strong commitment to decarbonisation. Housing sector produce around 20% of UK emissions and the biggest issue is existing homes.

Sustainable Energy Association is studying houses decarbonisation for 2050 under 5 different scenario, but Further Ambition Scenario is the only one to reach the NZEB target. For social housing sector they have a specific scenario until 2050 and new buildings have different standards than existing buildings. The future home standards for new buildings introduce an interim uplift in energy efficiency standards. Standards are very high and there is a much greater focus on testing end evidence.

At the moment there aren’t minimum standards for retrofit project in social housing sector.

During the Online meeting 2020 we talked about the future for energy housing sector, with an interesting view from inside the European Commission.

How the regulation on energy and climate goals will develop in the future?

The EPBD directive require EU member state to adopt long-term renovation strategies and establish minimum requirements for the energy performance of new building and existing building.

The aim of this long term renovation strategy is a reduction of greenhouse gas emission by 80-95% compared to 1990, in order to ensure a highly energy efficient and decarbonised national building stock and in order to facilitate the cost effective transformation of existing building into NZEB. To reach this aim the member states shall set out a roadmap with measures and progress indicators.

For example the Netherlands have different policies to do this, this is a great example of how we can do this voluntary.

The built environment is not homogeneous; sustainability solutions must take into account different local situation. This can best be achieved with a district-oriented approach.

The European Commission will enforce the legislation related to the energy performance of building sector. This will start in June 2020 with an assessment of Member State national long-term renovation strategies.

The European Commission could use more restrictive requirement in 2021 if this assessment  is not convincing.

To address the twin challenge of energy efficiency and affordability, the EU and all the member states should engage in a renovation wave of public and private building.

We would need to increase the number of renovated housing unit by at least 200’000 per year (total amount 600’000 units per year), this would require an extra yearly cost.

What is needed for the renovation wave to take place?

  1. Decarbonization strategies based on improvement of local energy systems.
  2. More efficient partnership with the construction sector to create local supply chain for low carbon renovations.
  3. Ready to use concepts and models of technological solutions (modular construction and circular building design).
  4. Public funding to help to go toward circular economy.
  5. Investment security in post COVID-19 times.

Which is the role of social housing in the EU recovery after COVID-19?

  1. To help our sector to protect communities and people. To support the production of affordable future-proofed housing.
  2. To protect our sector to protect the economy, we need an adequate EU financial framework.
  3. To help our sector to protect the environment, we need stable and holistic climate policies.

The future of energy and climate regulation will face several paradoxes.

The crisis has undermined the already limitedcapacity of the construction sector to deliver low cost and higly efficient renovation.

We need to go quickly and massively toward renovation of homes, but quality projects requires time and partnerships with the construction sector and the residents.

There is no recognition of the pioneering role of and challenges for social housing providers.

We can overcome those paradoxes with innovation through co-creation. At the following links you can see how Housing Europe helps centralize the expertise of social, cooperative and housing providers.

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