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Social Sustainability Reports for AZEB case studies

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AZEB studied the use of indicators for measuring the social performance of a building. The social performance of two AZEB case studies, in Spain and Bulgaria, was investigated.

Assessing and Qualifying on Social Impact of buildings.

AZEB studied the use of indicators for measuring the social performance of a building. The social performance of two AZEB case studies, in Spain and Bulgaria, was investigated.

 

The study shows how the European standard could aid decision making for cost-effective nZEB development.

 

For the case studies a a free-of-charge and relatively simple assessment tool was selected: AQSI.

 

AZEB identifies several opportunities to optimize cost effectiveness and affordability of nZEBs with assessment tools in order to improve the social performance of buildings.

 

Social performance of the building deals with the way users and the wider society experience the building. As buildings are ultimately created for users and society, this is an essential performance area. In reality, this aspect often only receives implicit and even insufficient attention in the development process. And the social performance results rarely get measured in a structured way. 

 

What is social performance?

The categories for the assessment of social performance as defined in EN15643-3:2012 and in EN16309:2014 are:

  • Accessibility
  • Adaptability
  • Health and Comfort
  • Impacts on the neighbourhood
  • Maintenance
  • Safety/security
  • Sourcing of materials and services
  • Stakeholder involvement

When creating nearly zero energy buildings, emphasis is often put at cost and energy efficiency of the building. However, many decisions on design and construction and maintenance actually positively or negatively influence the experience of the user and the wider society of the building.

 

The best known aspects of social performance are probably comfort and health. But there are other relevant aspects, such as accessibility, adaptability and maintainability.

 

User perspective and user experience

 

Attention in research and actual projects is still limited given the implications the level of social performance of buildings can have for individuals, for organisations and for societies as a whole.

 

In the AZEB methodology it is emphasized that the user perspective and user experience should be included from the start of the project to ensure good social performance in addition to environmental and economic performance.

 

With this report we show how this can be done in a practical way in projects, using existing tools and methods.

 

Contents report

 

The report starts with some theoretical background on social sustainability, the measurement of social performance of buildings, available methods and the relation with the AZEB methodology as a whole. It then moves on to describing the assessment method used and the results for each case study performed.

 

The report ends with general conclusions and recommendations which derive from the application of social indicators and assessment methods in the AZEB case studies.

 

Target groups for this report are clients, professionals and policy makers who would like to cost-effectively operationalize their ambition for improved social performance of buildings. 

 

Assessment tool AQSI

 

This AZEB study shows how application of the European standard could aid decision making for cost-effective nZEB development.

 

For the case studies a free-of-charge and relatively simple assessment tool called AQSI was selected, which is specifically targeted towards assessing social performance of all types of buildings and fully based on the European standards.

 

This tool is used for the assessment of two different case studies and a literature study is done of publically available recent assessments which were performed outside the context of the AZEB project. Existing European standards are very useful, but not yet very practical to implement. 

 

In the Netherlands the excel-based tool AQSI has been developed to implement the assessment of social performance in actual projects, closely following NEN-EN16309:2014 in its approach.

 

AQSI means: Assessing and Qualifying on Social Impact of buildings.

 

AQSI has already been applied in a range of projects, but is still in the early stages of development.

 

Within the AZEB project we show how practical application of the European standards can improve project decision making when striving for cost-effective nZEBs, even when applied in a “light”-version. Also we wish to boost the development of AQSI by evaluating the use of the tool from an AZEB perspective and giving recommendations for further improvement.

 

This may stimulate the use of this (or other) assessment tools for social performance of buildings further.

 

Case studies Spain and Bulgaria

 

Two AZEB case studies from Spain and Bulgaria were helpful to practice hands-on the use of a freely available and carefully developed tool for the assessment of social performance of buildings.

 

This led to insights on using tools like this in the various steps of the AZEB methodology throughout the project’s lifecyle.

 

Reviewing some existing and publicly available assessments of various buildings gave some extra insights on specific ways to use this type of instrument for improving the social performance of buildings.

 

Finally a review was done of some assessments on product level to explore opportunities of assessing social performance at product level.

 

4 opportunities

 

AZEB identifies 4 opportunities to optimize cost effectiveness and affordability of nZEBs with assessment tools in order to improve the social performance of buildings.

 

1. As a design tool, aiding in creation of a complete set of balanced requirements and assessing whether a design fulfills the requirements for social performance and helping to structure the value optimization process to increase social performance.

 

2. As a validation and verification instrument after the construction of the building, to assess whether it fulfills the requirements set for social performance.

 

3. As a validation and verification toolduring the use and maintenance phase to structure the monitoring, interpretation and optimization of the social performance of the building.

 

4. As a commercial asset for improved real estate value and improved sales, by explicitly showing potential buyers or tenants, as well as financial investors, the social performance of the building.

 

Steps AZEB methodology

 

The following steps of the AZEB methodology are essential when aspiring improved social performance of a building in order to create cost-effective and affordable nZEBs.

  • Step 1: Identify local contextual aspects
  • Step 2: Set balanced requirements
  • Step 3: Plan validation & verification
  • Step 6: Decide on project organization
  • Step 7: Create a multidisciplinary team
  • Step 13: Apply value optimization methods
  • Step 15: Update requirements
  • Step 16: Validate and verify design
  • Step 23: Commissioning of the building services
  • Step 26: Monitor, interpret and optimize 
  • Step 27: Increase user awareness

Conclusion: expertise needed … 

The conclusion of the AZEB study is that significant expertise is needed for in individual assessor to be able to create and substantiate the assessment.

 

Technical abilities need to be combined with intimate knowledge of user behaviour and user experience and an understanding of local contextual factors which may influence these.

 

This is a broad personal development for one person to have and currently experts with this specialisation seem to be rare on the market. 

 

… From a multidisciplinary team

 

There is a risk that important factors are overlooked when just one person is involved in a design or assessment task.

 

Therefore we recommend that a process solution is chosen, where several specialists on social performance are added to the multidisciplinary team (step 7 of the AZEB methodology) to:

 

  • Help set requirements
  • Add creative input to the design
  • Do the assessment in various project stages (validation and verification) and 
  • Suggest improvements from the perspective of social performance. 

These specialists to be added to the multidisciplinary team could for example be a combination of technical experts with knowledge of user behaviour, actual users (and/or user experts like marketeers) and a policy/legal expert in the area of societal developments.

 

Why we selected AQSI

 

Several assessment tools for social performance of buildings are on the market.

 

We chose to use AQSI for these AZEB case studies because it is freely available and based on the European standard for social performance of buildings.

 

While using it, it became clear that improvements can still be made to optimize its usability in building projects. Some recommendations specifically for improving the instrument AQSI are made in the report.

 

We categorized these recommendations according to the different steps to be done in the assessment using the tool: collecting information, scenario’s, social indicators and summary & diagram.

 

Horizon 2020 program

 

AZEB has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement number 754174.