It’s not news to anyone that the world of business has a major part to play in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and environmental sustainability. With commercial activities accounting for at least 18% of the UK’s total carbon emissions, there is increasing pressure to reduce the carbon footprint of commerce.
Looking specifically at sustainable construction and the efficient management of energy in buildings, the metrics used to measure a building's environmental impact become very important. The European Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) has been instrumental in this, as an update on previous EU regulations on building performance concerning energy performance.
With recent revisions of the regulatory framework to reflect a greater need for climate action, there has been an industry-wide shift from Building Energy Rating (BER) towards a more comprehensive Energy Usage Intensity (EUI). This transition is not just a change in acronyms; it signifies a paradigm shift in how we assess and regulate the sustainability of commercial buildings.
Current European Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) Metrics
The current 2021 EPBD, which is currently progressing through EU legislative stages, does take a more aggressive stance on defining energy efficiency. In relation to Energy Usage Intensity, measured in kWh/m² per year, new office buildings in Europe, such as in Ireland, are mandated to maintain a minimum EUI of 85 kWh/m²/yr, as outlined in Annex III of the directive.
While an EUI of 85 is a step forward, it still falls short of the net-zero targets set by the Paris 2050 Accord. Recognising this, many organisations have proposed more stringent and measurable targets that set in-use performance metrics to drive various building types towards a real net zero. This shift from BER to EUI reflects a fundamental change in how the industry perceives and pursues energy efficiency.
Highlighting The Performance Gap
With regard to design/expected efficiency and actual building energy usage, there has been a huge performance gap, highlighting the urgency of addressing this. The current issue with existing building regulations and energy rating mechanisms, such as BER, is that they do not adequately predict or represent the actual energy performance of the buildings, leading to inaccurate energy predictions and trajectories.
In the IGBC Roadmap to Paris 2050, they highlight that there is little correlation between Building Energy Ratings (BER) and actual gas/electricity usage, due to the consumption differences to factors such as home size and type. As for the non-residential sector, the focus of Ireland's retrofit programme is shifting towards disclosing actual energy use, with investors and developers urged to prioritise energy intensity performance and per capita targets over asset ratings like BER.
Similarly, the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) stresses the need for a shift in building regulations. In their roadmap for net zero, they push for the move from the traditional "notional building" (hypothetical) comparison approach to in-use energy performance metrics like Energy Usage Intensity (EUI). This aims to drive the industry towards an outcomes-led "design for performance" approach, as the metrics are not merely theoretical but involve concrete targets for office buildings.
With this, the UKGBC has released new energy performance targets for buildings, which highlight the level of energy reductions needed to achieve net zero by 2050. London Energy Transformation Initiative (LETI) echoes these sentiments in their Climate Emergency Design Guide, reiterating the importance of in-use energy performance metrics.
Looking Ahead at New Regulations
While BER has done its part in incentivising good building design practices, its shortcomings in delivering tangible consumption reductions have become increasingly clear, prompting adjustments in new EU legislation. Major lobby groups within the building construction industry are beginning to push towards in-use EUI targets, with forward-thinking investors and tenants leading the charge.
As the industry adapts to this regulatory shift, it becomes clear that EUI is set to take centre stage in driving not just energy-efficient designs but sustainable energy performance in the commercial building sector.
Symphony’s HVAC Optimisation has demonstrated tangible results in reducing EUI for projects like Hibernia's 1 Cumberland Place building. By reprogramming their HVAC process, our contribution to the 1 Cumberland Place project has led to a reduction of their EUI from 121 to 44. The implementation of a new heat pump will bring the EUI to 26, not only meeting but exceeding its 2050 target.
To learn more about how Symphony can help your business reduce its carbon footprint and reach its EUI targets, get in touch to schedule a demo today.