What can building technologies contribute to the realisation of the climate objectives? And what actions doest Agoria untertake to ensure their potential is fully used?


The article of 9 October 2019 provided an introduction of the role of the industry in achieving the climate objectives.

This article explains the role of building technology and the activities of Agoria as building technology expert to utilize the possibilities of building technology to contribute to achieving the climate objectives. 

Building technology and climate objectives

Buildings are responsible for about 40% of energy consumption and 36% of CO2 emissions in Europe. These emissions are caused by the energy used for heating and cooling. There are two options for reducing these emissions:

1. switching to a non-fossil energy source (which means no CO2 emissions while providing heating or cooling)
2. reducing the amount of energy required (which means the production of less energy resulting in fewer emissions)

A reduction of the amount of energy required for heating and cooling of a building can be achieved through a reduction of heat loss, for example by improving the insulation. However, the application of building technologies, such as high-performance windows, blinds and ventilation, also play an important part in ensuring a minimisation of heat-loss without a loss of living quality. For example, an existing building that is too well insulated without proper ventilation can experience problems with moisture. Another option to reduce energy demand is to apply heating or cooling devices that requires less energy to deliver the same amount of heat or cooling (in other words; are more energy efficient). Which technology is most suitable to reduce the demand of heating and cooling of a building at a reasonable cost depends on factors like the building typology. The climate policy framework provides several policy instruments, such as Ecodesign and EPB-PEB to increase the offer in energy-efficient building technologies and to support the decision-making process within that offer.

Impact of policies on building technology development

Increasing the supply of building technology to realise nearly climate-neutral buildings implies that the policies must impact the design of a building technology product. Preconditions for that design are partly determined on the basis of other phases in the life cycle of a product (see figure 1), such as the distribution and future use of a product.

In the case of building technology, distribution is strongly related to the application in and therefore the design of (energy efficient) buildings. Different from household products, it is therefore not only the end user who play a role in the decision making; advisory parties, such as architects and installers, also have an important say in the technologies selected. Therefore, in addition to Ecodesign and energy labelling (aimed at stand-alone products), a number policy instruments specifically target the decision-making process for the application of energy efficient technologies in buildings, such as EPB, EPC (or la certification PEB/ EPC certification) and the renovation policy framework. These instruments therefore do not only facilitate an assessment of the building; they also provide a framework for assessing the various technologies available through the assignment of product-related energy performance values.

Regarding the use of building technology, the key aspects are the impact on the energy performance of a building and the user behaviour. The impact is highly dependent on the adjustment of the technologies after installation. Policy instruments, such as installation and inspection requirements, aim to positively impact this. In addition, the application of smart technology can make a positive contribution through realising a better cooperation between technologies and making user behaviour visible. Smart technologies can also increase the share of renewable energy in a building's energy consumption. Policies to positively impact the application of smart technologies for this purpose are still in development; based on requirements from the new Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD), a number of policy instruments are currently being developed to stimulate the use of smart technology.

In the use of building technology, the impact on the energy performance of a building plays a major role. This depends very much on the way in which the technology is adjusted. This is influenced by policy instruments aimed at installation and inspection requirements. In addition, the extent to which the use of smart technology can make a positive contribution to improving the cooperation of technologies in order to improve the energy performance of a building is currently being examined. Smart technology can also be used to increase the share of renewable energy in a building's energy consumption. Based on requirements of the new Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD), a number of policy instruments are currently being developed to stimulate the use of smart technology.

Finally, the realisation of the climate objectives is also dependent on the ability to limit greenhouse gas emissions resulting the production process of building technologies. Within the policy framework, this falls more under the objectives for the 'Industry' sector than under 'Buildings', but the two obviously have a strong relationship. Important policy instruments in achieving more climate-neutral production processes are the Emissions Trading System (ETS) for energy-intensive companies and the energy policy agreements for the 'non-ETS' industries. In addition, several programmes are offered to stimulate innovation in production processes supported by subsidies, such as Industry 4.0 in Flanders, Wallonie and Brussels.

Figure 1: Phases that a building technology product goes through, including the relevant policy instruments

Knowledge development on building technology

As indicated there are several policy instruments with an impact on the design of energy efficient construction technology. It can be difficult, however, to see the wood for the trees. Agoria therefore provides, as a building technology expert, basic information on the various policy dossiers and the impact of those policies on stimulating the development of energy-efficient products and thus indirectly achieving the climate objectives. A better understanding of the functioning of the available policy instruments can lead to more interesting discussions on how to further strengthen the climate policy framework for buildings to increase their impact.

General policy framework

In the past years a comprehensive policy framework has been developed at European and global level to achieve the climate objectives. Member States as Belgium have played an active role in this development and have made various commitments.

The following articles explain how the climate policy framework works and what has been agreed:

Specific Directives and Regulations

The European climate framework is made up of Directives and Regulations. A revision of this framework in function of its ability to realise the 2030 climate targets was completed in 2019. It included the introduction of a new Regulation to achieve a more stability in the regulatory framework and thus create a positive investment climate; for example, different reporting requirements for Member States under the individual Directives were integrated into a single plan for a period of 10 years (the National Energy and Climate Plan/NECP).

The following articles provide basic information on the specific Directives and Regulations and the main outcomes of the revisions:

Ecodesign & Energy labelling in general 

Ecodesign and energy labelling regulations have been created to stimulate the development of energy-efficient products,. Ecodesign provides the minimum energy performance requirements of a product, while Energy labelling provides the consumer (and installer in the case of building technology) with insight into the differences in energy performance. The regulations are regularly reviewed on the basis of the technology available on the market to futher stimulate innovation, while ensuring that the products remain affordable.

The following articles provide basic information on the operation of the mechanism behind Ecodesign and energy labelling and the most important developments:

Product-specific groups

In addition to the regulations focused on the general principles behind Ecodesign and energy labelling, the policy framework includes more than 50 product-specific lots which set out the actual energy performance requirements per product group. The relevant groups for building technology are, for example, (local) space heating, ventilation, air conditioning, lighting, building automation systems and smart appliances. The product-specific regulations are reviewed regularly.

The following articles provide an overview of the main points of discussion in the revisions currently underway:

Energy labelling database (EPREL)

In January 2019, a new registration requirement was introduced for all products covered by energy labelling regulations. This requirement means that manufacturers and importers (suppliers) must register every model of a product in the Energy labelling database (EPREL) before they can place the product on the European market.

The following articles provide more information on the background of the obligation and how the products should be registered:

Renovation 

One of the climate objectives in Europe is to achieve a nearly zero-energy building stock (NZEB or BEN) by 2050 in a cost-effective way. A comprehensive policy framework is available for the realisation of those renovations, however it has so far resulted in a renovation rate that is too low to meet the 2050 target. Therefore, there are currently discussions on the best way in which policy instruments need to be adjusted in order to achieve a higher rate.

The following article gives an overview of current discussions about increasing the renovation rate:

Energy performance methodologies 

Energy performance methodologies are the instruments used to (officially) calculate the energy performance of a building. The energy performance certificate is the basis for existing buildings (EPC/la certification PEB / the EPB certificate); this is mainly intended as a benchmarking instrument and to measure the performance of the building stock. In the case of new buildings and far-reaching energy renovations the methodology is also intended to realise more energy-efficient designs (EPB-PEB). The importance of (detailed) valorisation of building technologies in the design of the methodology increases as buildings become more energy efficient.

The following article provides an overview of the discussions on the design of the energy performance methodologies:

    •  Simplification of EPB – coming soon

Implementation of EPBD standards

The 'EPBD standards' are a set of standards that combine the available knowledge in Europe on the design of the energy performance methodology for buildings. Currently this methodology differs from one Member State to another. For companies that sell construction technology products in several countries this is inconvenient as it causes them to have to follow separate procedures in each country in order to validate product innovations in the methodology. This creates an (unnecessary) extra cost for the product. The aim of the EPBD standards is to achieve more uniformity in the methodologies applied.

The following articles provide insight into the operation and structure of the standards: