Renovating Buildings to High Energy Performance Standards

By The Buildings Performance Institute Europe (BPIE)
Spring 2013 effective investment delivering multiple benefits - if done properly

The Buildings Performance Institute Europe (BPIE) has recently published a guide on how to efficiently develop national building renovation strategies. The concise document highlights the multiple benefits arising from improving the energy performance of buildings and looks into the important challenges and their achievement.

In Europe, deep renovations are specifically encouraged by article 4 of the Energy Efficiency Directive (EED, 2012/27/EU) through the requirement for Member States to establish long term strategies for the renovation of national building stocks covering all building types, including residential and non-residential buildings, whether in private, public or mixed ownership.

Alongside EED, the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD, 2010/31/EU), recast in 2010, sets out numerous requirements including energy performance certification of buildings, inspection regimes for boilers and air conditioning plants, and requirements for new buildings to be nearly zero energy. EPBD also sets minimum energy performance standards for buildings undergoing major renovation. Together, EED and EPBD provide a framework for Member States to drive the reduction of energy use in buildings, thereby delivering a range of economic, environmental, societal and energy security benefits described below.

BPIE's renovation guide argues for Member States to be visionary when planning for a long term strategy for building stock renovation: it is vital that national renovation strategies are ambitious in their scope and coverage, and that they take full advantage of the state of the art, in terms of technology, policy and institutional arrangements. The guide describes the strategy development process in detail, zooms in on the five key phases and a suggested list of actions Member States could take to underpin the strategy.

The five key phases are:

  • Identifying key stakeholders and information sources
  • Technical and economic appraisal
  • Policy appraisal
  • Drafting and consulting on the renovation strategy
  • Finalisation, publication and delivery

"The renovation of buildings to high energy performance standards", says Oliver Rapf, Executive Director of BPIE, "could be the most cost-effective investment a nation can make, given the benefits in terms of job creation, quality of life, economic stimulus and energy security that such investments deliver."

There are, indeed, multiple benefits arising when the energy performance of existing buildings is improved. The most obvious ones are the savings on energy bills that accrue to the building owner or investor. Additional benefits are improved comfort, better internal air quality, improved sound insulation and increased property value (sale or rental). These additional benefits are rarely factored into the investment calculation.

However, the full range of benefits can only be appreciated at a societal level. These include: reduced energy imports, thereby improving balance of payments; job creation - in manufacturing, installation and throughout the extensive supply chain of products and services; in turn, these new jobs reduce unemployment costs, increase tax receipts and stimulate local economic growth through increased disposable income. Other benefits are linked to health and improved living conditions, lower air pollution, resulting in fewer working days lost to ill health and a lower burden on state health services, as well as energy system benefits: saving a unit of energy is cheaper than supplying one, thereby avoiding the cost of new generation capacity and other supply infrastructure. Lower heating demand in winter, and cooling demand in summer, reduce the traditional peaks in energy use which are the most expensive to supply, so costs are reduced for all users. In addition, cutting energy use in buildings is the cheapest way of reducing carbon emissions, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Quantifying all these impacts is not an easy task, yet it is one that the energy efficiency team at the International Energy Agency has taken on board as a current assignment. If the co-benefits were systematically monetised in economic appraisals of renovation investments, they could significantly exceed the energy cost savings, according to leading experts in the field. The key challenge is to find a way to reflect the societal benefits in the decision making processes of millions of individual building owners.

BPIE encourages Member States to view the requirement to develop renovation strategies as an opportunity to modernise building stocks and in the process, reap these multiple benefits.