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].
An article on Greenbiz.com was claiming that ‘It’s time for the building industry to shift from development to maintenance, using a life cycle approach.’
The article proposes three types of renovation. Apart from major retrofits and opportunistic equipment replacements, it introduces ‘building retro-commissioning’. This is the practice of bringing a building every 5 to 7 years back in line with its design intent and technical capability in order to achieve its predicted performance. The inspection programs in the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) could provide the framework for the latter approach.
The US was the first to build large-scale hydropower stations; and now these installations are ageing. Upgrading them could boost the hydropower output at a cost of less than 4 cents /kWh without the environmental disruption of new dam construction. This also applies in Europe and for other types of renewable energy: technology keeps on developing. Upgrading and repowering existing sites is rapidly becoming an interesting market for hydropower. The same trend can be observed for wind energy plants.
A theme on which we already touched a few times [4, 17, 45, 69]: behaviour change provides a low investment route for sustainability, and programs have been shown to have an impact over a typical time horizon of 6-12 months. But will modified behaviours last in the long run?
Automation technology can have a more lasting impact, but also requires continuous management and maintenance.
Perhaps the combination of behavioural solutions and automation technology, with periodic inspection and maintenance that reinforces user behaviour, can provide the ultimate solution.
‘Another flaw in the human character is that everybody wants to build and nobody wants to do maintenance’, wrote Kurt Vonnegut. Is this the reason why building renovation rates are so low? The Building Performance Institute Europe (BPIE) has found that only 3% of our buildings are highly energy efficient – leaving the other 97% in need of energy renovation before 2050.
The revised Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (published on 19 June 2018) requires Member States to boost the energy renovation of their building stock. An important publication, not to be confused with one of Vonnegut’s metafiction novels.