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Editirial Vol 39 no2 2014

By : Dr. Henk Visscher

The existing housing stock has a major energy saving potential and is mostly considered to be the sector in which energy efficiency most cost effectively can be achieved. About 30% of all energy use is consumed in the housing stock. The European union formulates saving targets, policies and regulations that have to be implemented by the member states and a considerable share of the EU budget for research and innovation is dedicated to this challenge. In recent years many policies, investment programmes, technical innovations and process innovations have been developed and been put into practice. However, it appears to be very difficult to realise massive renovation programmes in the existing housing stock and really make a step forward towards the energy efficiency goals. This special issue presents an overview of actual insights of the perspectives of energy efficiency in the housing stock based on several research projects and analyses and discussions about how the current policies will work out and which are the barriers that still have to be taken. We focus on the policies, the processes and the people. Lars A. Engberg (page 6) analysed how planners of the Copenhagen City Council struggle to promote energy retrofitting projects in the urban renewal scheme to meet the aim of Copenhagen to become the first carbon neutral capital in the world by 2025. The study finds that planners approach green retrofitting as a ‘wicked problem’ that requires new solution strategies targeting the complexity of developing new retrofitting standards and solutions in the existing urban renewal framework. The question of the effects of energy poverty on residential segregation is raised by Katrin Großmann e.a. (page 14). They used survey data from a small shrinking city in Germany and explored how energy costs are interrelated with residential location decisions and found that energy efficiency indeed plays a role in location decisions. Low income households seek to minimize housing costs in general, paying specific attention to heating systems, thermal insulation and costs. Louise Reid (page 25) analysed the potential and practical impact of the UK Green deal policy. She found many critiques from industry, environmental pressure groups as well as from housing professionals. There has been a limited take up of Green Deal loans by householders, and the installed measures presumably offer only minimal improvements in energy efficiency. Reid concludes by suggesting that instead of being a revolutionary way to improve the energy efficiency of the UK’s domestic building stock, the Green Deal could even increase existing social injustice and lead to environmental degradation. She suggest that the effort should, instead, focus on understanding how energy demand is created through householders’ expectation. Besides the environmental challenges and the reduction of the energy costs, the renovation goals can also be viewed from the perspective of the economy and the impact it will have on the EU labour market. Frits Meijer e.a. (page 34) studied the potential of jobs being created. Studies show that for every €1 million investment in the existing building stock in the form of energy renovation work, 12 to 17 new jobs could be created. To meet the formulated energy efficiency goals and related renovation programmes, indeed 100.000’s of valuable jobs could be created at a time when these are seriously needed. But yet, the actual progress of renovations in Europe is still low and the question remains weather the large scale investments will be realised. Nico Nieboer e.a. (page 41) explored the progress of energy renovations form the perspective of housing providers. They present the results of an investigation of the policy developments in the nonprofit housing sector in the Netherlands. The findings show a progress in their policy ambitions in recent years, but also a large discrepancy with the ambitions set for the whole sector in a covenant with national government and the tenants union. Tadeo Baldiri Salcedo Rahola e.a. (page 48) investigated the potential of integrated contracts for energy renovation projects in France and found positive results and several advantages compared to traditional project delivery methods, like Design-bid-Build. The integrated contracts facilitate collaboration between the various actors and boost their commitment to the achievement of project goals. Design-Build-Maintain contracts do indeed offer substantial energy savings, they were completed in less time and at the same cost. Another promising process innovation is proposed by Rodrigo Garcia Alvarado e.a. (page 57). They developed and assessed a strategy for effective and feasible modifications in the design of refurbishments of single-family homes to reduce energy use while maintaining indoor comfort. The improvements proposed are based on dynamic energy simulations of individual models adapted to local realities in Chile. Different sets of measures have been identified to achieve high reductions in energy demand while having low cost and being highly appreciated by the participants. The final two contributions in this issue address the actual energy use in dwellings. We can improve the skin and the installations and provide potentially more efficient dwellings, but the actual energy use is caused when the occupants are heating the dwelling to create a comfortable living environment.
Simon Stiggelsten (page 69) studied the accuracy of different methods of individual metering and charging of energy costs to be apportioned among tenants in multi-apartment buildings based on their own energy use to facilitate reduced energy use due to saving behaviour by tenants. The conclusion of the study is that it is difficult to measure the actual heat used for an individual apartment, which obstructs accurate and fair apportioning of heating costs among individual tenants. In the last article (page 78) we present some figures and insights of the relation between expected and actual energy use. New housing seems to have problems with achieving the required quality and the rebound effect in the behaviour of the occupants also has a undermining effect on the energy use. In the existing stock people in bad insulated housing appear to use far less energy than expected. It appears that renovation improves the comfort level and only leads to a limited energy use reduction. These insights deliver a new perspective on the current policies and expectations of the effects of renovations. The aims for the improvement of the housing stock are evident. The detailed studies in the articles in this special issue show however that there are many challenges and barriers to overcome. Besides the technical innovations accurate polies are needed. Innovations of the building processes provide chances for improved quality and reduced costs. And on the first place we should study the perspective of the occupants more in detail.
Dr. Henk Visscher, OTB Research for the Built Environment, Faculty of Architecture and the Built Envornment, Delft University of Technology, Jaffalaan 9, 2628 BX Delft, The Netherlands. E-Mail: H.J.

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