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4th European ETICS Forum 2017 conference summary

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The fourth European ETICS Forum 2017: a great success story

 

On 5 October 2017 the European Association for ETICS (EAE) held its 4th European ETICS Forum in Warsaw. The breathtaking modern architecture of the Polin Museum provided the perfect setting for the congress. EAE President Ruud Van Eersel (Belgium) and Dr Jacek Michalak, President of the co-organizing Polish member association Stowarzyszenie na Rzecz Systemow Ocieplen (SSO), welcomed roughly 270 participants from 24 countries, and speakers from 11 countries to the Polish capitol. Among those present were expert delegations from EAE’s partner associations CABEE (China) and JAPI (Japan). These figures marked a new record in the history of this high-level conference.

 

Energy efficient buildings are key

 

In her key note speech “Energy efficient buildings are key to shaping our future – Is industry ready to tackle the challenges?” Paula Brandmeyer from Environmental Action Germany (Deutsche Umwelthilfe) demonstrated clearly the necessity to reduce GHG emissions. In the Paris Agreement, all nations committed to aim to limit the global warming to 1.5°C until 2050. This requires a 95% reduction of GHG emissions in all sectors. In the ¨Clean Energy for all Europeans¨ package the European Commission proposed intermediate goals for 2030: 40% reduction of GHG emissions, 27% share of renewable energies, and 30% improvements in energy efficiency (compared to 1990).

Paula Brandmeyer pointed out, that 40% of EU´s energy demand is consumed in buildings, and that buildings are responsible for 36% of GHG emissions in the EU. Therefore, improving the energy efficiency of Europe’s aging building stock offers a huge leverage to achieve these ambitious goals. However, the efforts have to be increased: instead of an annual renovation rate of about 1%, a rate of 3% is required. This would not only support Europe’s ecological objectives, but at the same time effectively help to reduce the risk to fall for energy poverty, and to suffer from sicknesses linked to poorly insulated buildings. Finally, Paula Brandmeyer demanded from the ETICS industry to take resource efficiency seriously. In the future, more recycled materials should be used, waste from deconstruction of ETICS should be recycled as far as possible, and next generation buildings should produce less construction and demolition waste than today.

The following speakers replied to her challenging question. It became clear, that the ETICS industry is aware of its responsibility for future generations. They demonstrated, that industry has already delivered some result. And it takes strong efforts to provide solutions towards a truly sustainable and circular economy in the future.

 

ETICS already contribute significantly to GHG reductions – but could do much more

 

The first session of speeches dealt with interesting facts, figures, and developments. At first Dr Jacek Michalak introduced the participants to the ETICS market in Poland. Already in the early 1980´s ETICS have been used to improve the thermal resistance of external walls. Since the 1990´s, ETICS became popular, especially for renovation of existing buildings. In this decade, approval systems have been established. Throughout the following years, more and more European regulation has been adopted. Today, Poland represents EU’s largest ETICS market with about 40 mil m2/year.

Following the figures of the hosting country, EAE Managing Director Ralf Pasker presented a brief picture of the European ETICS market. He mentioned, that after the first ETICS has been installed on a residential building in 1957 in Berlin/Germany, it took until the first oil crisis in the early 1970´s to achieve a breakthrough. After decades of cheap energy, people started to think about reducing costs for heating. Throughout the last 60 years, ETICS have been established as a predominantly used solution to improve the energy efficiency of buildings in all EU Member States – and far beyond. In parallel the variety of system configurations and design options have increased rapidly, offering solutions for almost all objects. He estimated, that in Europe more than 2 billion m2 have already been installed – showing positive long-term experiences. Ralf Pasker concluded, that ETICS already contribute significantly to achieving Europe’s political objectives. However, they do not yet contribute enough to meet the future goals. Only if the renovation rate will be increased dramatically, these goals can be fulfilled.

Together with the participants Prof Andreas Holm from the FIW Munich institute (Germany) started a journey through the technical developments throughout six decades of ETICS. With admiring facts, he pointed out, that the ETICS industry is truly innovative. The variety of insulation products increased, plus their thermal performances. The moisture management of systems has been improved constantly, a huge variety of finishing designs, materials and structures is available on the market today. Further innovative solutions are under development. Multifunctionality, super insulating materials, and the use of renewable sources might be future trends.

The section was closed by brief presentations about the Chinese and Japanese ETICS market, performed by Yang Xiwei (CABEE/China) and Prof Tatsuaki Tanaka (JAPI/Japan). They underlined, that energy efficiency and reducing GHG emissions have a global dimension. They are taken seriously in Asia, and participants were quite impressed regarding the huge dimensions of the Chinese market.

 

ETICS contribution to circular economy and sustainable construction

 

The second session of the European ETICS Forum focused on life-cycle and circular economy. Gino Gailliaert (IVP ETICS/Belgium), Chairman of EAE’s marketing committee, talked about the life-time expectations of ETICS. He mentioned, that already in the 1907´s, when ETICS became more popular, first in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, there were lots of doubts in the safety, durability and functionality. Therefore, the German ETICS association started a long-term research together with Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics. Since that time, buildings with ETICS installed in the early 1970´s have been inspected every five years. After the last inspection and more than 40 years after application, the results are quite convincing. Systems are still working properly. Fraunhofer IBP concluded, that the service life and the need for maintenance of ETICS can be compared to rendered facades. Even more: there is a trend towards ETICS-on-ETICS refurbishment. During standard renovation cycles, the thermal performance of the initial ETICS - often with insulation thicknesses of less than 6 cm - can be improved cost-effectively by adding another ETICS layer on top.

A long service life already contributes to sustainability aspects of ETICS. But industry takes a broader approach, as Dr Clemens Hecht (QG Wärmedämmsysteme/Austria), EAE board member for technical affairs, explained in the following presentation. He demonstrated, that the whole value chain is analyzed to identify possible improvements, ending up with the aim to dismantle and recycle ETICS, once buildings itself reach their end of life. The first steps have already been taken. For example, EAE and some of its members contribute to the PolyStyrene Loop project. In mid-2018 a pilot plant will start operation, collecting experiences in separating hazardous flame retardants (already replaced in 2015 by a new product in new production) from polystyrene. The latter will be used as new raw material for insulation production. The scope of EAE’s activities towards circular economy will be enlarged to the variety of system configurations, including further insulation products like mineral wool, polyurethane or phenolic foams.

Robert Spang (Thinkstep AG/Germany) explained the broader scenario. Evaluating the environmental impacts of single construction products is one piece of the holistic approach to minimize environmental impacts of buildings. For that, individual product data, e.g. provided by Environmental Product Declarations (EPD), serve as an input for calculations, and architects have the choice to optimize the entire design of the construction works. According to his opinion, such aspects will become more relevant in the near future. Unfortunately, there is still a lack in European harmonization and acceptance of EPDs.

That environmental-friendly buildings are not just a vision, was demonstrated by Miroslaw Czarnik, President of the board of GPP Business Park in Poland. His company designed and built the Groeppert-Mayer office building in Katowice, certified with the highest BREEAM certification. He explained, how energy-efficiency contributes to minimize GHG emissions, to reduce operating costs, and to create a friendly and comfortable atmosphere for employees. From the investor’s point of view, it finally pays off.

 

ETICS in the light of European regulation

 

To achieve common political and societal objectives, the European Union sets up a regulatory frame, and the construction sector has to consider a variety of different standards and regulation. In the first speech of the third session, Lars Boström (Research Institutes of Sweden) gave a report about the status and the challenges in harmonizing different national test procedures for façade-fire tests. In his introductory words Ralf Pasker reminded participants of the fact, that EAE already requested in 2014 the European Commission to take action, and that EAE members are satisfied to see progress. Lars Boström explained, that EU Member States use different test rigs, test designs, and fire loads. Furthermore, the national requirements for the construction works are different. However, the international project team is on the way to present a proposal within the forthcoming weeks. Once the test will be established, manufacturers of façade systems should be able to perform one test, and test results should be accepted in all Member States.

Antonio Caballero Gonzalez (European Mortar Association/EMO) presented further insights in the difficulties to elaborate European harmonized test standards. The Construction Products Regulation describes Basic Work Requirements in a general sense. Standardization committees have to tackle the challenge to “translate” these general principles into specific test setups. Here difficulties start – not only for ETICS. First it shall be defined, what has to be assessed and identified. Furthermore, tests must be repeatable, scientifically evident, and being valid for a range of similar construction products. He demonstrated in relation to the assessment of release of dangerous substances from render systems the long way to such harmonized standards, which is not yet completed.

Sue Arundale (European Construction Industry Federation/FIEC) presented an interesting example what happens on the political level to come to European legal framework. The Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) aims to contribute to the major climate and energy objectives as prescribed by Paula Brandmeyer in her key note speech. It is currently under revision. Stakeholders and Member States are involved in public consultations. Committees of the European Parliament discuss about possible amendments. Sue Arundale clearly pointed out, that the construction industry fully agrees, that efforts have to be increased to improve the energy efficiency of Europe’s building stock. However, for the moment the definition of Nearly Zero Energy Buildings (NZEB), that applies for all new public buildings from 2019 and other new buildings from 2021 onwards, is still missing in several Member States. She demanded, that such buildings have to provide a safe and healthy environment for their inhabitants and users. As changes in the construction business typically happen slowly, she appealed to the audience to accept new methods.

 

ETICS contribute to customer satisfaction

 

The final session was dedicated to aspects related to customer satisfaction. Sean Balfe (National Standards Authority of Ireland) pointed out that a long service life, safety, and durability of ETICS require more than a good quality of products. The quality of systems shall meet a good quality of design and application. In his vital speech he reported on the efforts taken in Ireland to educate and train ETICS applicators in order to ensure reliable quality and durability. Therefore, they have introduced the Agrement Approval Scheme for Installers. According to his words, that was useful as Ireland started to adopt ETICS much later than other countries. So, they collected best-practice examples from mature ETICS markets to draw-up and implement their quality scheme.

After all technical and regulatory aspects, Alessandro Siragusa (CORTEXA/Italy), EAE board member marketing affairs, concluded: “ETICS are amazing!” In his vital presentation he took the audience to a journey across Europe, presenting convincing examples, how ETICS can be adapted to different buildings types, styles, and climate zones. He pointed out, that ETICS and architecture are not conflicting: today the ETICS industry offers a huge variety of colors, finishes, and details to meet almost all requirements. Finally, he drew the attention to the fact, that ETICS not only contribute to climate action, but in parallel to create a cosy, comfortable and healty environment for individuals. “A place where you are glad to stay.”

 

ETICS industry takes responsibility

 

At the end of the conference, Prof Zuzana Sternova (OZ ZPZ/Slovakia), EAE Vice President, summarized, that on the one hand there is still a lot to do, if Europe wants to achieve its climate and energy objectives. On the other hand, the ETICS industry has already delivered convincing results, and takes its responsibility towards circular economy, fire-safety, and durability seriously. She thanked all speakers and the audience for their participation to the 4th European ETICS Forum in Warsaw.