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Posted: Dec 04, 2013

Improving building design to reach zero-energy consumption

(Nanowerk News) The goal of reaching zero-energy buildings can be met by improving their design and relying on renewable energies.
Ulrich Filippi Oberegger
Ulrich Filippi Oberegger
Ulrich Filippi Oberegger is a senior researcher in the energy management in buildings group of the Institute for Renewable Energy of EURAC Research. He tells youris.com about reducing the use of energy by designing buildings, which are integrating so-called passive and active technologies. Passive technologies donít use energy, such as insulation or reflective layers, while active technologies use power, although often very efficiently, such as heat pumps. In turn, this approach will contribute to reducing carbon emissions and securing long-term savings on operational costs. This is what the EU-funded project DIRECTION plans to achieve with three demonstration buildings in three locations, Bolzano, Italy, Valladolid, Spain and Munich, Germany.

What is EURACís approach for integrating energy-saving measures in buildings?

We are mainly involved in the integrated design process. This means that we are interested in facilitating the exchange of building information between the stakeholders and the actors, namely between architects and engineers. This way, we have a firm grasp of the design process and of all the other phases during the construction of the building and also afterwards, during maintenance operations. We know well the procedures behind all the building phases, the actors that are involved, as well as those who produce all the information.
In practice, how do you reduce the energy needs?
We propose measures to the architects and engineers who are involved in the design phase of the building. Our strategy is to mainly focus our research on basic solutions. We try to reduce the energy needs of the building by exploiting natural resources, like daylight or ground water if possible, or renewable energy, such as solar energy.
Do these measures differ, depending on the climate?
We have different solutions in the three showcase buildings of the project. For example, in our building in Bolzano, where summers are hot and winters very cold, we use mainly highly reflective surfaces. We have light tubes that direct sunlight to the first floor of the building. And we have an internal garden that acts as temperature buffer zone. A very good strategy during summer is to ventilate at night, so you have to cool the building less during the day. During the winter we use heat pumps that exchange heat with ground water.
Are there different building regulations for these sites?
Yes, we have also different approaches to meet the various regulations. We do not make the show cases change their procedures. We use their documents, as they are. We decided on a common structure for these three buildings. We also developed a web platform where you can upload documents, store them and then search for information. We also address other differences, differences in user behaviour and different construction methods.
Do you expect that your research project will lead to energy savings in other buildings in Europe?
All members of the EU have to work on energy efficient buildings because of the European building directives of 2002 and the recast in 2010, which constrains builders to improve the energy performance of buildings, using passive measures, but also improvements of the efficiency of heating and cooling. The 20-20-20 targets of the EU climate and energy package call for a 20% improvement in the EUís energy efficiency, a 20% growth of the share of EU energy consumption produced from renewable resources and a 20% reduction in EU greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels. Of course, you need a quite high-share of renewable energy, otherwise this is not possible.
Therefore the Member States have to refurbish a large part of their building stock. And that is not an easy task. Things are progressing much slower than they should. We all have to work together. The industry has to put on the market more innovative products. This will only happen with the help of research institutes. I think many zero-energy buildings will first appear in the public sector. And then, the private sector will follow.
Source: Youris
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