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OVERVIEW | Energy Performance of Buildings standards: past and future

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OVERVIEW | Energy Performance of Buildings standards: past and future

Shutterstock / Alis Leonte

by Tiziana Buso (REHVA)


Energy Performance of Buildings (EPB) standards are nowadays on every energy efficiency expert's lips. We are at a turning point in the road towards a homogenous energy efficiency market. However, the goal is not yet achieved. The future of EPB standards is in the hands of all energy efficiency stakeholders.



A brief history of EPB standards


Since 2002, the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) has been the key EU legislation covering the reduction of the energy consumption of buildings. The recast of 2010, currently in force, and the forthcoming revision, announced in November 2016 within the Clean Energy for All Europeans package, further strengthens the role of the EPBD in promoting the improvement of the energy performance of the European building stock. It is then the task of each EU Member State to integrate the provisions of the EBPD in its national legislation and to make its requirements legally binding.


A harmonised calculation method is an underlying requirement of the current EPBD. This is the reason why the Directive recommends that “the methodology for calculating the energy performance of buildings should take into account European standards” (recast EPBD, Annex I).


Based on this recommendation, the European Commission and the European Free Trade Association gave mandate to CEN, CENELEC and ETSI (i.e. the 3 European Standardisation Organisations) to elaborate and adopt standards establishing a methodology to calculate the integrated Energy Performance of Buildings (EPB), known as “EPB standards”. The first mandate (M/343) was given in 2004, to support the first version of the EPBD released in 2002, and resulted in the publication of EBPD-related CEN standards in 2007-2008. With the publication in 2020 of the recast of the EPBD, a new mandate was issued (M/480) in the same year, to update and add standards.


This second mandate presented the working groups of CEN with an opportunity to learn from the experiences collected from the national applications of the 2007-2008 set of EPB standards. Indeed, in the national implementations these standards have proved not to be ready-to-use, compatible or straightforward. Thus, M/480 was the opportunity to make EPB standards fitting and unambiguous and to provide a clear and explicit overview of the choices, boundary conditions and input data that needs to be defined at national/regional level. The CEN Technical Committee 371 was appointed to coordinate this ambitious programme.


The work programme of CEN TC 371 was organised in two phases. In Phase I, priority was given to the development of (and agreement on) basic principles and of an overarching standard providing a continuous but modular structure to the set of EPB standards. Based on this robust common framework, in Phase II the various TCs prepared/revised the standards.


The task of developing these EPB standards was not restricted to Europe, despite the EU origin of the Directive and the mandate. Since 1991 the Vienna Agreement has called for joint planning of new standards between CEN and ISO (the International Standards Organisation). The EBP standards have therefore been prepared or revised by five CEN (European) and two ISO (worldwide) Technical Committees, or TC's, each of them covering a specific field of expertise. These committees were coordinated by a group of Core Team Leaders (CTL) of the CEN TC 371, the Programme Technical Committee of the EBPD, in order to ensure effective management and consistency of the overall approach. The CTL, in turn, collaborated with the joint working group of ISO TCs 163 and 205 (with global coverage). Figure 1 summarises the organisational chart of the working groups. 


Figure 1. Organisational chart of the CEN and ISO Technical Committees involved in preparing EPB standards.


These joint efforts aimed at a complete and consistent set of EN ISO EPB standards. Thus, several EPB standards were prepared or revised as combined EN ISO standards or, when this was not achievable, the ISO and EN versions were kept as similar as possible, with the aim of merging them at a later stage. A series of consecutive ISO numbers has been reserved for the EPB standards in order to support this plan and to increase global awareness of the EPB set. The numbers range from EN ISO 52000 to 52150, with sub-series for the successive modules.


In November 2016, in an evocative coincidence with the announcement of the Clean Energy for All Europeans Package, the new set of EPB standards was released for the formal vote of the national standard bodies. Before this official vote, the draft standards were already approved in the Enquiry phase (i.e. when a draft standard is released for public vote and comment) and all the arising comments had been addressed.  


In January 2017 the new EPB standards were finally approved. Thanks to the collaboration between ISO and CEN this set of standards currently includes, at the global level, seventeen EN-ISO standards, seven accompanying Technical Reports (coded as CEN ISO/TR) and one ISO standard. Additionally at the European level there are now 31 EN standards and 23 Technical Reports (coded as CEN/TR).


In August 2017, almost seven years following the issue of mandate M/480, the task of CEN has been accomplished. All the EPB standards have been published and have therefore become the national standards in force in all member countries. Figure 2 summarises the key moments leading to the publication.



Figure 2. Timeline of the history of EBP standards. NOTE: “EPB st.” stands for EPB standards.



What’s next?


Having EPB standards in force is a necessary condition to reach a harmonised energy performance calculation method across the EU, and to reap the energy and market-related benefits that derive from this. However, this alone is not sufficient, and the endorsement of Member States is crucial for this point.  


The overall structure of the EPB standards has been envisaged to facilitate national implementation and to motivate Members States to adopt the standards in their national regulations. Each standard is accompanied by an Annex that can be used to tailor the energy performance assessment to a local situation. Additionally, the set of EPB standards has a modular structure which maximises the possibilities of a step-by-step local implementation. Nonetheless, Member States can still decide to reference specific national standards instead of using the new EPB set, thus jeopardising a harmonised regulatory framework.


The revision of the EPBD Annex I proposed in November 2016, which includes a requirement for Member States to describe their national calculation methodologies based on EPB standards, may turn out to be a game-changer. By requiring Member States to evaluate how their national procedures relate to EPB standards, the national standardisation bodies might find shortcomings and simplifications which could potentially hamper the energy evaluation of emerging technologies, and as a result they might decide to use the EU standards instead.


In addition to EU legislative efforts, it is crucial that all stakeholders involved in the energy efficiency market – industry, regulators, building professionals – support and promote the EBP standards among national regulators. Indeed, these standards are potential assets for many professionals of the energy market. The energy assessment of buildings is carried out for various purposes, such as:


  • assessing compliance with building regulations;
  • ensuring transparency in real-estate transactions through energy performance certifications;
  • monitoring the energy consumption of a building; and
  • predicting energy savings by planning retrofit measures.

By using the holistic approach of the EPB standards for these purposes, it would be possible to reach a desired level of performance using the most suitable combinations of technologies at the lowest costs. This would be a key driver for technological innovation, and it would help the EU accelerate efforts to achieve an energy efficient building stock and a competitive energy market.  EU support for this vision was featured in a dedicated session at the European Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) Policy Conference in June 2017.


With these objectives in mind, REHVA and ISSO have joined their efforts to create the EPB-Centre. The Centre’s main activities are to plan, coordinate and guide the process of promoting the implementation, use, maintenance and further development of the set of EPB standards and to safeguard the coherence of their technical contents. This virtuous circle of implementation, application and improvement featuring both standards experts and users could play a crucial role in facilitating the use of these standards on the ground. This would help Europe to advance its environmental and economic ambitions and become a global frontrunner in the cleantech market.