[70] Efficiency in use

The many attempts to define ‘nZEB’ all come up with a list of stand-alone requirements, such as a well-insulated and airtight building shell, efficient HVAC system and a high share of renewable energy. Never mentioned is how to connect them. The EPBD 2018 recast, with its improved focus on controls and automation, could fix the broken chain in the building codes [62, 115].

Any remaining missing links? How about a lifecycle dimension: nearly zero-energy on a spreadsheet is still far from real and persistent performance [124]. Let’s not build policies on the sandy grounds of predicted savings but make user-centric thinking the driver for continuous improvement – even when the building changes function.

[68] The win-win effect of energy efficiency

Energy efficiency investments in private dwellings pay themselves back. But what if that takes years and you want to sell the house in the meantime?

A study by the UK government showed that the investment is not lost. It registered an 11% to 38% increase in home values where energy efficiency investments had been made, with 16% as an average. Not surprisingly, the increases in value were larger in the north of England, where high quality insulation can create the biggest reductions in heating cost.

[55] Costs, benefits and value

Stories in the media about the declining price of solar and wind energy give the impression that the more solar and wind energy produced, the lower electricity prices will become. If only it were that simple! In fact, the opposite is happening. Denmark and Germany – two major producers of renewable energy – have the first and second most expensive electricity in Europe. The reasons are complex: the price of electricity depends on a range of different supply and demand conditions, including geopolitical situation, national energy mix, import diversification, network costs, cost of ancillary services, environmental protection costs, severe weather conditions, and levels of excise and taxation. To name but a few.

[49] A lifetime of opportunities to improve

A new approach to ‘building commissioning’ is needed. Normally it is used after a new building has been constructed and all systems are up and running, to verify that it is ‘ready for use’. But that’s only one instant in time for which it could be used.

In Schneider Electric’s course ‘Commissioning for Energy Efficiency’, the same term is used for periodical actions that ensure that a building keeps on operating as intended, with optimal energy use and comfort levels. Seen like that, a concept like ‘continuous commissioning’ makes sense. See also [45, 47].