Barriers and possibilities for a more energy efficient construction sector
The building sector is often called 'the 40 % sector' as it uses 40 % of the energy produced and stands for approximately 20% of the CO2 emissions. The great potential for the EU community to improve its energy performance through this sector depends very much on the implementation stage, which still lacks speed and efficient spreading mechanisms. In the SECURE Project non-technological barriers, such as legal, financial, social and due to organisation of the sector have been explored in 18 demonstration buildings within the participating cities of Malmö, Dublin, Hilleröd and Tallinn, distributed between residential, public and commercial buildings. The goals were to find out why best practice is not always reached for energy efficiency and from that experience, to find ways to achieve best practice. This was done through interviews and energy reporting. Best practice, which the demonstration cases was compared with, was defined from a benchmark study of previous relevant national and European sustainable urban environment development projects and a definition of a 'passive-house' concept. A methodology for identifying non-technological barriers was developed based on applied and action oriented research, where participatory techniques in the form of qualitative interviews were used. While all countries in the study could display demonstration cases of low energy buildings they all face the same challenge in making this type of buildings attractive for the broader public. The awareness and demand for energy efficiency among those buying the houses is still very low although there are indications that this situation is changing with increasing energy prices and an increasing awareness about the relation between a building's energy performance, cost for heating and climate change. Most demonstration buildings, regardless of country origin, did not experience any major legal barriers. Instead, many pointed out the importance of the technical descriptions when building energy efficiently and the importance of highlighting any type of deviations. Regarding the Directive on energy performance of buildings (EPBD), all representatives for demonstration cases were interviewed before implementation of the directive, which limited its impact. When it comes to financial issues the energy price was the most commonly acknowledged incentive for making energy investments. In all countries the role of the architect was pointed out as crucial in the development of more energy efficient buildings. In order to achieve a good building quality and as such a high energy performance, information between actors and a process control were in most countries highlighted as very important. Training of actors and project meetings between different actors were the most commonly acknowledged way to achieve this. It was very difficult to find demonstration cases with good energy data and very difficult to involve actors from the demonstration objects in the reporting process. As long as no general European standard for energy reporting exists, comparisons between different demonstration cases will be very difficult. The fact that it is so hard to compare between demonstration cases subsequently limits their impact on the sector. The lack of a standardised way to measure and compare energy efficiency leads to a case by case mentality and energy performance according to building regulations becomes more important as a benchmark than the best practice on the market. A conclusion from the study is therefore that there is a need for general agreement on how to report and compare energy performance in order to allow for good practice to be a stronger driving force for energy efficiency within the sector that goes beyond the EPBD, since the EPBD is implemented individually in each EU member state.