Silvia Demattè - How to raise the number of nZEBs in Europe? Experts provide their insights into probing questions
DIRECTION’s second replication workshop took place in September, organised by Eurac in Bolzano, Italy. This is one of three workshops organised as part of DIRECTION’s outreach aimed at maximising replicability potential as the project enters its final months.
Silvia Demattè (EnginSoft SpA) R&D Engineer
Construction engineer, dealing with energy requirements, environmental impact and internal environment comfort simulation and optimisation.
Do you think there is a real market for nZEBs in Europe in the short term?
The feeling that building certifications may have an economic payback is starting to spread.
However, interventions are mainly performed on existing building stock which is difficult to renovate in an efficient and economically viable way. For the short term, this represents a major hurdle to developing a market for nZEBs.
In addition, information within the market is extremely asymmetrical and demand is somewhat fragmented. And with limited resources, the market is not keen to back interventions that have long term payback. Another characteristic is that adverse selection mechanisms are often at play on the supply side. The only way to promote high quality buildings, suitable for local climates at affordable prices is to invest in integrated planning - even among non-technical profiles. Change is not only a burden but also an opportunity to increase synergies among all the players involved in this sector and to educate planners and builders. Lastly, the effectiveness of interventions is influenced by the operative feedback from the consumer. A barrier to the introduction of these buildings in Mediterranean climates is that they were first developed in Northern Europe, where energy saving is linked to heating in winter. By contrast, the Mediterranean area is characterised by a great variability in solar irradiance and recurring overheating phenomena. There is neither common decoding nor official legislation. Unfortunately, in many cases the application of the Northern model to our climate has increased energy consumption for cooling, especially in buildings with high internal loads, like office rooms.
Which governmental initiatives (regulation, public funding, etc.) could ensure the growth of the nZEBs market, making nZEBs more appealing to public and private developers and end users? Or does the private sector need to take the lead? Why?
In order to make buildings sustainable, it is necessary to employ technologies able to help manage information during the whole lifecycle of the structures while increasing energy efficiency, reducing environmental impact and improving indoor air quality. For example, computerised maintenance management systems offer increased comfort and use energy efficiently, saving up to 40% more energy. These systems react to energy price variations, switching from one price range to another or reducing energy consumption at peak times. Moderate investment can often help bring down costs and CO2 emissions considerably. [Tax] Allowances and lower bills as a reward for low energy consumption may make nZEBs more desirable. Both public administrations and associations should try and provide better information in the construction market, so that the stakeholders (from both supply and demand) understand the real technical and economic potential of interventions.
Joint education programmes among planners, companies, craftsmen, suppliers and public and private customers may be helpful. It is also necessary to identify evaluation systems able to highlight critical areas and point towards the most suitable solutions.
All this should be made with a mind to shared objectives, recovering the ability to plan and apply optimal solutions, with special regard to the phase of correct implementation.
Do you believe your company would benefit from a higher market share of nZEBs compared to traditional buildings?
Planning nZEBs requires detailed calculations in order to assess their efficacy, efficiency and convenience in terms of payback. This kind of analysis needs to be carried out in detail with a sound knowledge of the physical phenomena behind the building's mechanisms. Unfortunately, these competences are not widespread. This is where EnginSoft can come in.
Correct planning of nZEBs is only possible if thermal mass and bioclimatic strategies are taken into account. A detailed study of the building's dynamic reactions during summer is essential to understanding its thermal inertia. Precise calculation of energy consumption and how renewable energy sources are exploited are necessary to help decide which machinery to install in the building. For example, big systems cost more to manage and may not be affordable in terms of payback.
How could the design of nZEBs be integrated into public tendering processes?
The supply contract may provide for the payment of all the players involved in planning and building only after verifying that all objectives have been reached. This could be made through a period of monitoring.
Integrated design process of nZEBs with SMEs and craftsmen: is it possible? How?
Most of the sales volume in the construction sector is coming from renovating and maintaining existing buildings, most of which were built many decades ago. This shows that there is much room for tailor-made measures: standard buildings may be adapted to non-conventional contexts, according to structural and aesthetic constraints. Communication is often hard between craftsmen and customers about the best solutions for the building, especially when addressing management and maintenance issues during the whole lifecycle of the product. The actions taken are not always appropriate, especially when complex intervention is needed.
In this kind of production chain, with many different players whose performances are combined towards a common goal, it is important to take all the opportunities offered by web-enabled tools. These could help tackle information fragmentation while increasing the potential for coordination between all those involved, which would allow complex interventions in terms of economic resources and know-how.