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Making Europe’s buildings energy efficient

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By Adriana Pescaru

· 6 min read

Most of the buildings we see in Europe are quite old, and this makes 75% of buildings energy inefficient. A closer examination of the building stock in Europe shows that 35% of buildings are now over 50 years old. Buildings stand as the primary energy consumer in the European Union, accounting for 40% of energy usage and 36% of greenhouse gas emissions.

The changes in society, which emphasise the protection of the environment, prompt us to pay attention to the way in which European heritage is restored and new constructions are erected. This means that politicians, as decision-makers, building specialists and society as a whole need to act fast. Now, only 1% of the building stock undergoes energy renovations annually.

The revamped Energy Performance of Buildings Directive's renovation wave aims to unite actions across all levels to renovate 35 million buildings by 2030 to at least double the yearly renovation rate and achieve more extensive energy retrofitting. The TIMEPAC project aligns with Europe's decarbonisation goals from the European Green Deal. 

The goal of the TIMEPAC project is to demonstrate how combining Energy Performance Certification (EPC) databases with other data sources can enhance the reliability of certifications. The coordinator for the TIMEPAC Project, Professor Leandro Madrazo Agudin, explained in an interview for Build-Up that the main target for the energy performance certification is not to have the label, but to undertake measures to improve the building’s performance. TIMEPAC also aims to promote digitalisation to ensure that EPCs more accurately represent actual building conditions, thus improving user accessibility.

As a result of these improvements, the project anticipates that about 6.5 square meters of deep renovations will occur annually in the six TIMEPAC countries - Austria, Croatia, Cyprus, Italy, Slovenia, and Spain. This will lead to an average primary energy savings of 85 kWh per square meter.

The project has launched a survey titled Getting Ready For The Building Renovation Wave to identify any obstacles or barriers that may arise during the implementation of new Energy Performance Certificates. Building experts from all EU nations involved in refurbishing building stocks can participate.

Already, close to 1,500 building experts have taken part in the TIMEPAC survey to date. Most of the respondents are architects, engineers, professional certifiers, and energy auditors to see to what extent they are familiar with four specific concepts or tools. 

This survey highlights specific areas where support and additional training are desired among respondents. 

So far the survey shows how varied knowledge is throughout Europe. For example, most respondents show some familiarity with Building Information Modelling (BIM, a digital representation of a building's physical and functional characteristics). But additional support is needed to deepen their understanding and use BIM for energy performance assessment and certification purposes.

Many respondents express a desire for further support and guidance to comprehend assessments related to building smartness (evaluating the intelligence, efficiency, and technological integration within buildings to enhance their performance and sustainability).

Additionally, there's a notable demand among respondents for support and training concerning the procedures associated with Building Renovation Passports. These passports are comprehensive documents providing details on a building's energy performance and potential for renovation, and respondents seek further understanding in navigating these procedures effectively.

In summary, while familiarity exists with concepts like BIM, the need for additional support and training remains high, particularly in leveraging BIM for energy assessments, understanding smartness assessments. More help is also needed for effectively engaging with Building Renovation Passport procedures (a document that provides comprehensive information about a building's energy performance and potential for renovation). This highlights the areas where professionals seek to enhance their knowledge and capabilities within the building sector.

Professor Leandro Madrazo Agudin explained that the project's outcomes will be leveraged to benefit professionals throughout Europe. The TIMEPAC Academy will act as a hub for the innovative tools and methodologies, that will be available in the near future. The TIMEPAC Academy will provide essential expertise to building professionals, as they will shape future certification tools, methodologies, and training crucial for Europe's building sector decarbonisation. 

Revolutionizing building efficiency: The TIMEPAC initiative

Europe's architectural charm often belies a significant challenge: energy inefficiency. With a staggering 75% of buildings exhibiting subpar energy performance, urgent action is imperative. Notably, over a third of Europe's building stock surpasses the half-century mark, underscoring the urgency for intervention.

At the heart of this issue lies buildings' disproportionate energy consumption, responsible for 40% of energy usage and 36% of greenhouse gas emissions in the European Union. The imperative to protect our environment, coupled with evolving societal values, demands swift and decisive action from policymakers, industry specialists, and society at large. Presently, only a mere 1% of buildings undergo energy renovations annually, a figure insufficient for the scale of the challenge.

In response, the revamped Energy Performance of Buildings Directive spearheads a renovation wave aiming to revitalize 35 million buildings by 2030. This ambitious endeavor seeks to double the current renovation rate, prioritizing comprehensive energy retrofitting. Aligning seamlessly with Europe's decarbonization ambitions under the European Green Deal, the TIMEPAC project emerges as a beacon of innovation and collaboration.

The TIMEPAC initiative represents a paradigm shift, leveraging cutting-edge methodologies to enhance the reliability of Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs). Led by Professor Leandro Madrazo Agudin, the project pioneers the integration of Energy Performance Certification databases with diverse data sources. In a recent interview with Build-Up, Professor Agudin emphasized that the ultimate goal of EPCs extends beyond mere certification; rather, it serves as a catalyst for tangible improvements in building performance. Central to TIMEPAC's mission is the promotion of digitalization to ensure EPCs accurately reflect real-world building conditions, enhancing accessibility and efficacy.

Forecasts from the project anticipate substantial annual deep renovations across six participating countries: Austria, Croatia, Cyprus, Italy, Slovenia, and Spain. These renovations are projected to yield an average primary energy savings of 85 kWh per square meter, marking a significant stride towards sustainability.

To facilitate this transformative agenda, the TIMEPAC project has launched the "Getting Ready For The Building Renovation Wave" survey. Designed to identify potential obstacles in the implementation of new EPC standards, the survey has garnered insights from nearly 1,400 building experts across the EU. Architects, engineers, certifiers, and energy auditors constitute the bulk of respondents, demonstrating a collective thirst for knowledge and capacity-building.

Analysis of survey responses underscores the need for targeted support and training in critical areas. While familiarity with concepts like Building Information Modeling (BIM) exists, respondents express a desire for deeper understanding and utilization, particularly for energy performance assessments. Similarly, there is a growing demand for guidance on evaluating building smartness and navigating Building Renovation Passport procedures effectively.

In summary, the TIMEPAC initiative represents a pivotal step towards a more sustainable built environment in Europe. By addressing knowledge gaps and fostering innovation, the project aims to empower building professionals to lead the charge towards decarbonization. Professor Agudin envisions the TIMEPAC Academy as a catalyst for this transformation, offering a wealth of resources and expertise to shape the future of Europe's building sector. As we embrace this collective endeavor, the TIMEPAC initiative stands as a testament to the power of collaboration and innovation in building a greener, more resilient future

illuminem Voices is a democratic space presenting the thoughts and opinions of leading Sustainability & Energy writers, their opinions do not necessarily represent those of illuminem.

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About the author

Adriana Pescaru is a news editor at ProFM radio and a journalist with a focus on science and social issues. She also imparts knowledge on Digital Radio Production at the Faculty of Orthodox Theology in Bucharest.

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