[124] Management trumps fit-and-forget

Frequent updating of Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) improves their credibility and demonstrates the effectiveness of renovation measures, which makes them a more reliable instrument for financing mechanisms.

Digital solutions are not only necessary to avoid high additional implementation costs, they also open up the gateway to a next-generation of performance certificates. Or, as stated in an ongoing H2020 call, ‘certificates that value buildings in a holistic and cost-effective manner across several complementary dimensions: envelope performances, system performances and smart readiness.’

See also [4762, 70, 115].

[115] Thinking big means thinking wide

Decarbonising the existing, highly inefficient European building stock is one of the long-term goals of the European Commission. The recently revised directive on the energy performance of buildings (EPBD) improves energy efficiency in buildings and encourages building renovation. It promotes cost-effective renovation work, introduces a smartness indicator for buildings, simplifies the inspections of heating and air conditioning systems, and promotes electro-mobility by setting up a framework for parking spaces for electric vehicles. Finally, this is the systems approach we have been waiting for. 😊

[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.