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Direction project coordinators: Key outcomes and lessons learnt

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Holistic approach and involvement of all stakeholders – ingredients for new buildings in the future


At the end of the DIRECTION project, talks to the coordinators Julia Vicente and Sergio Sanz , CARTIF, about outcomes and lessons learnt


Adopting effective and less expensive energy efficiency solutions in new buildings. What is the contribution made by DIRECTION?
​There is a tendency to believe that achieving high efficiency or low energy buildings requires brand new and expensive measures. It is true that not all potential measures are cheap, and some are currently quite expensive indeed. Different solutions do however exist that can be implemented at low additional costs of a building construction. The key to selecting the most appropriate solutions depends on the context of the building and the availability of natural resources. To find the best solutions, a pre-analysis phase is necessary to achieve good results and the use of simulations can make a significant difference.


Which are the key ingredients for designing an energy-efficient building?
​One word that always comes to mind when thinking about this question is INTEGRATION. For sure, this is not a new idea, but we can say from our own experience that it is really true. And when we say integration we are thinking about many levels: building and systems design teams, the systems themselves, control strategies, stakeholders involved etc. To see the building along its whole life as a one entity (from design to use and maintenance passing through construction) helps provide an overall picture. Seen that way the importance of integrating all stakeholders into the process from the very beginning and interacting among them, and not as separated islands that work on their specific aspect only, is evident.


Control strategies for energy-efficient buildings. What are the key features? Who are the key actors?
​In the cases of the DIRECTION demonstrators it was quite important having tailor made building monitoring systems (BMS). The possibility to adapt the control strategies to the real needs makes achieving a better performance easier. Both buildings, CARTIF III and NuOffice, operate with specific controls to make the most out of the different installed systems. An important feature of the implemented BMS is that it takes into account the interaction between systems for better adjustment. This means that different players have to cooperate. And when speaking about control we cannot forget the users. Occupants may have varying needs, therefore, it is important they can somehow operate the building through manual controls.


What are the key lessons learnt from the DIRECTION project? Both positive and negative.
​One important conclusion we can confirm is the importance of the building user. In the end, a building is not only a good envelope with optimal integrated systems, but a place where users live, work and interact. Awareness and implication of the building users are important. Even the perception of the same environmental conditions can differ, depending on how involved people feel. Thus, it is crucial to include users as soon as possible in the process and make them feel they are also a part of it, by keeping them informed and trained, and giving them some level of control.

Another aspect we have learned, and suffered from, was working with public bodies as building owners. For them, tendering processes are compulsory, and this adds a new factor that can complicate things. In our case the commitment of the province of Bolzano has become reality with the Black Monolith building as a part of the new technology park. Unfortunately, it is now out of the scope of the DIRECTION project due to the enormous delay caused by the numerous appeals during the tendering process.


After four years of activity the project is coming to an end. What will DIRECTION leave behind for future development and replication? 
DIRECTION results can help overcome the inertia of the design process in the construction industry.  Future new buildings will improve by the integrating processes and teams, and this has to be taken on board and exercised by the construction industry. It means a change in the mind-set of all stakeholders (designers, builders, users, etc.), and we think DIRECTION demonstrations show a chang, in this respect.