Posts Tagged ‘energy performance’
While a number of URBACT projects are actively investigating ways of improving environmental conditions and quality of life, an important contributing factor to poor human health and comfort is often afforded less direct attention. Yet owing to the fact that EU populations spend disproportionately more of their time inside buildings – whether it be homes, places of work or institutional buildings such as schools or day centres – indoor air quality should represent a major cause for concern. Professor Olli Seppanen (Federation of Heating, Ventilation and Air-conditioning Engineers, REHVA) in a recent presentation to the Architects Council of Europe estimates that “More than 2 million life years are lost annually through poor indoor air quality”.
Dampness and effects of moisture, (coincidentally ideal breeding grounds for moulds causing microbial pollution or allergens such as dust mites), presence of bio-aerosols, pollution induced by combustion material, have proven causal links with increased levels of asthma, allergy, cardio-vascular disease and degeneration of human immune systems. Dampness and bacterial infestation have traditionally been associated with poorly constructed and poorly maintained housing for low-income groups, but some estimates suggest that moisture problems, for example, affect more than half of buildings during their lifecycle. It is also clear that young children and senior citizens are particularly vulnerable as a result of general lack of location choice and inability to manage their indoor environments, where ventilation is a key factor.
It is true that much can be achieved to counter such risks through application of appropriate technical solutions (standards as well as techniques) but the impacts are the result of a multiplicity of often inter-related factors such as urbanisation patterns, badly implemented energy conservation measures, open use of global building materials and construction methods, and last but not least climate change effects. So even in this apparently closed problem sector, an integrated reaction can be presented as the only optimal way of tackling the health risks involved in a comprehensive way. Professor Seppanen reminds us that “Existing EU standards for the indoor environment are often not put into force and are only mandatory if they are included in national legislation”. So while the EU Commission, DG for Health and Consumers, has proposed a series of actions including holistic integration of indoor air quality, energy performance, selection of low pollution materials and moisture-safe construction – the recent Belgian Presidency provided an extra impulse requesting that an EU strategy on improving indoor air quality be put in place by 2015.
On your next visit to Brussels it is perhaps worthwhile to consider that in fact the air quality in your meeting room in the “rue de la Loi” may be even worse than that of the open air in the 5-6 lane constant traffic artery below – as a result of pollutants infiltrating the envelope and building up, but not being efficiently circulated and ejected.
Thematic Pole Manager
While many member states have introduced energy standards to be respected for new (particularly residential) construction in recent years, since 2003 the EU has added an extra stimulus to this process promoting adoption of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD). Recast in 2009 to strengthen commitment on this issue, the Directive incites the adoption of national energy performance certificates for residential and general utility buildings – firmly establishing the concept of energy labels on the basis of grades (rating) of energy efficiency.
Although the EU directive makes energy performance disclosure mandatory in all member states there has, in the interim, been fairly minimal evaluation of the real take up of and adherence to this principle. Fronted by Dirk Brounen and Nils Kok of Maastricht University, a research report has just been released which provides an interesting insight into the state of play in the Netherlands (Sponsored by RICS Research). In introducing his findings Dirk Brounen emphasises that currently only +/- 50% of member states have officially introduced a certification system in accordance with the directive.
The report focuses on the Netherlands experience by examining housing property sales between January 2008 and September 2009, where since January 2008 technically all transactions in the Dutch housing market need to be accompanied by an energy performance certificate. It also attempts to explain the “green premium” effect derived from market pricing of energy performance certificates. The conclusion is that even by refining down the figures, the green increment still represents an interesting 2.8% positive impact on the transaction price. However of the total number of transactions (194,000 dwelling sales) only 33,000 were in fact effectively labelled, conform the directive, over the sample period. Furthermore the level of labelled transactions has not been constant – and from initial levels which reached just over 25% of housing property sales in early 2008 the proportion of labelled sales had steadily decreased to under 10% by July 2009. This can partly be explained by a peculiarity in the Dutch system which legally allows the buyer to sign a waiver, which frees the seller from his obligation to provide the certificate.
This snapshot report presents an interesting insight on the situation in a country which has “embraced” the directive. It suggests for instance that there would be merit in spreading out this analysis to other countries and it raises many thought provoking questions, not least as regards to what is happening outside the sales market – which represents by far the highest proportion of the housing stock in countries across the EU.
Full research report – website
Thematic Pole Manager
Romania must comply with the Energy Performance for Buildings Directive (EBPD), requiring energy audits for constructions. According to the national legislation on the energy performance of buildings, in the following months energy performance certificates will be mandatory and made available to potential buyers or tenants by the building’s owners, for all real estate
transactions. These certificates will be valid for ten years and will be drawn up by energy auditors.
The certificate informs the potential buyer or tenant about the apartment’s energy efficiency, expressed, generally, through the total yearly energy consumption, in kW per hour per square meter, integrating it into an energy class (from the A – high-efficiency class to the G- low efficiency class).
In Romania, the percentage of poor energy performance housing stock built during the communist regime is extremely high, meaning that few are the cases of buildings that can obtain a high-class efficiency certificate. According to a study developed by the European Institute of Romania, around 30% of the primary resources consumption is, in fact, losses, half of them coming from the residential sector.
Although it is clear that enforcing the energy certificate and complying with the EU directive is the road to follow, a number of debates and concerns were raised around this topic. The real estate agents feared a blockage on the market due to an insufficient number of energy auditors and an unequal distribution of them in the country’s cities.
The Romanian National Union of Public Notaries requested a delay in applying the law, as it would increase the prices of old houses by 5-10% and freeze transactions. Also the investors are worried about the price of the certificate and the future extra paper work in view of a real estate transaction.
The real estate investors should know that it is the building owner’s obligation to obtain an energy audit and that they are taking a risk if they do not have the proper paperwork and do not understand the basic performance of the building. There is also a very close correlation between building quality and energy performance, which is further assurance for the investor. The Romanian Ministry of Regional Development and Tourism considers that the price of building energy certification does not affect the sales price too considerably, because it accounts for an insignificant percentage compared to the rest of the legal expenses related to the transaction.
Currently, a number of around 200 of future auditors are being formed in different technical universities across the country, which will be added to the existing auditors. Although delays in transactions or different procedural issues still may occur, the process must start and will be adjusted accordingly to respond to specific situations. The owners
must understand that the final purpose of this new legislation is the thermal rehabilitation of their properties and not complicating the process of selling or renting the property.
All considered, the law is one of the main legislative instruments already “in force” for monitoring the energy efficiency level of the Romanian homes and encourages the development of highly efficient buildings.
- Official list of the energy auditors tested until February 2010
- Interview with Mr. Ioan Andreica, State Secretary within the Romanian Ministry of Regional Development and Tourism (CAPITAL.ro)
Romanian National Dissemination Point