Energy efficient buildings

In brief

On 30 November 2016, the European Commission launched its “Clean Energy for All Europeans” package.  The package, contains important items relating to buildings, including proposed revisions of the Directives on Energy Performance of Buildings (EPBD), Energy Efficiency (EED) and Renewable Energy, and a new “Smart Finance for Smart Buildings” initiative.

Our view

Using concrete in buildings contributes to energy efficiency thanks to concrete’s high thermal mass. When it is warm, concrete elements absorb excess heat, slowing the rise in temperature in indoor rooms. When temperatures fall in the evening, the concrete releases this heat, keeping indoor rooms at a comfortable temperature. This leads to energy savings and produces a better indoor climate for building occupants. In modern buildings, “thermally activated” building systems, where hot or cold water or air flows through pipes embedded in the concrete, can further boost the effect.  Thanks to its energy-storage effect, thermal mass can also contribute to greater uptake of renewable energy in buildings. Furthermore, thanks to their air-tightness and durability, the energy consumption of concrete buildings is greatly reduced over their whole life.

Given this, CEMBUREAU fully supports the recognition, under the proposed revision of the EPBD, of the contribution of structural building materials with a high thermal mass as in the stipulation in the proposed revision of the EPBD that thermal capacity should be considered when calculating the energy performance of a building. Furthermore, the proposal to assess buildings’ readiness to store energy and respond to the needs of the electricity grid, as part of a proposed “smartness indicator”, is welcomed. As indicated in a recently published study by 3E, commissioned by the Concrete Initiative, thermal mass in heavyweight buildings can provide this flexibility by allowing for consumer energy demand to be shifted in time (“active demand response”) by using structural thermal energy storage.  This could result in up to a 25% CO2 reduction per dwelling, up to 50% reduction in the need for peak electricity supply capacity and savings of up to €300 per household per year.

From a social point of view, CEMBUREAU is pleased to note the importance attributed to indoor environments, and thus the health and wellbeing of occupants, as this must go hand in hand with environmental objectives.  It is also necessary to consider the benefits of making buildings more energy efficient to consumers, in particular those at risk of energy poverty. From a financial perspective, it is clear that the push towards more energy efficient buildings will require adequate financing.  As such, we welcome the Smart Finance for Smart Buildings initiative and its focus on improving access to public and private funds for energy efficiency investments.