[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.

[67] How to deliver vast energy savings?

With the revised EPBD tapping into this potential [62, 115], electrical contractors and installers need to prepare themselves for their pivotal role in making our buildings smarter.

It involves a shift from hardware-focused technologies to digital solutions. An aging and dispersed workforce (two million installers in over 350,000 companies) is not easily prepared with the skills they need to remain competitive in this dynamic industry.

A strong plea to all electrical contractors’ associations: set up training programs and facilitate collaboration (within and across the sector boundaries).

[62] Responsive buildings

If the focus on occupants was seen as a revolution back in 2013, five years later the revised Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) is mainstreaming the idea.

The new Directive introduces key provisions to make buildings smart and as such improve indoor comfort for the occupants, guide them towards huge energy savings and support them in taking an active role in today’s energy system. Incentives for automation and control functionalities direct them towards the most cost-effective approach for maintaining performance of heating and air-conditioning systems, with returns nine times higher than investments. It’s a great opportunity to shift the focus of policies from the ‘fabric and services’ to the ‘building in use’. Now it’s time for the Member States to really catch the potential.

[51] Transportability or storability?

It could make sense to match fluctuations between commercial buildings, where heat demand is highest during the day, and residential schemes, where it’s higher in the mornings and evenings.

This concept could benefit millions of EU citizens with locally produced heat, e.g. from solar collectors, biomass-fired boilers, or micro-scale combined heat and power (CHP) plants.

Rather than every building optimizing its own heat supply, will the future bring communal heat services through local cooperatives or small-scale utilities?

[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].