News & Press
12. July 2016

eu.bac Energy Efficiency Dialogues - Making buildings smart

On 12 July 2016, eu.bac organised an evening debate and networking cocktail for:

  • Helping create better clarity on the terminology of 'Smart Building';
  • Looking at EU's current policy landscape; and
  • Discussing the most cost-effective paths for the gradual transformation of EU's building stock into 'Smart Buildings' in the longer term.

The fruitful debate was moderated by Colin TIMMINS, Director Home Controls, eu.bac. Prior to the interactive panel discussion Marie DONNELLY, Director, Directorate C, DG ENER, European Commission, gave an inspirational key note speech. The panel was animated by  Mariangiola FABBRI, Senior Project Manager, BPIE; Santiago GONZALEZ HERRAIZ, Buildings Team, Unit C3, DG ENER, European Commission; Jean Daniel NAPAR, President, eu.bac; Frauke THIES, Executive Director, SEDC. Their biographies can be downloaded here.

The debate valued the previous events this year on this topic i.e. 26 April 2016 ‘Smart Homes and Buildings’ organized by the Smart Grid Task Force Expert Group 3 and 15 June 2016 ‘Smart consumers and smart buildings’ organized by BPIE during EUSEW.

2016 is the ‘year of delivery’ for the Energy Union Framework Strategy and at the same time ‘the year of buildings’. With the Heating and Cooling Strategy (H&CS) acting as corollary of a functioning building policy, the review of Energy Efficiency Directive (EED) and the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) create the opportunity to future proof the European Union’s (EU) building stock.

The EED shall update the take on the Energy Efficiency 1st principle and modernize the approach around and wider than buildings by focusing on heating, cooling and electricity. Although, the expectations are high, in the end this shall be mostly a political decision. By the end of the year the outlook will be clearer on empowering consumers and communities and the endeavour to have an ‘open, flexible, adaptable and competitive electricity market’. As a prerequisite, buildings have to be plugged in this dynamic energy system that values energy when it’s available, but also when it’s not being used.

The EPBD aim is to have buildings act like ‘virtual powerhouses’. The buildings shall have a more active role by managing energy uses and assimilate all services (e.g. building security and safety, indoor environment quality) in a comprehensive way. Basically, centralising intelligence in buildings and making them ‘smart’.

The transformation of EU’s building stock is a gradual process that will not happen overnight from 0% to 100%. Smart Buildings have a strong role to play, but it is essential to differentiate what type of measures will be adopted and what energy and non-energy benefits are expected to be achieved.

The interoperability aspect is key for having a level playing field and sustainable process of making buildings smart. The expectations are that by 2020, 2030 and 2050, nearly Zero Energy Buildings and Smart Buildings will deliver strong results and particularly on carbon emission reductions.

When looking at DG ENER’s policy landscape on ‘smartness in buildings’ the following work-streams need to be coordinated for facilitating the energy transition i.e. Smart Grid Task Force, Energy Performance of Buildings Directive and Ecodesign Smart Appliances.

It goes without saying that clarifying the terminology is the 1st step. Although, demand side flexibility (communication with the grid/network) is one function of a smart building, this is more a longer term perspective. When aiming to capture energy and non-energy benefits today two other functions of smart buildings have a greater importance:

  • Buildings should react to occupants needs, after all buildings are built for people and we have come a long way from the cave;
  • The energy use of the building should be continuously optimized, by ensuring that energy is used only when and where necessary and the proper operation (and integration, when the case) of technical building systems (e.g. fault detection, automatic maintenance alerts).

From the technological point of view, for fully integrating a building’s services, a Smart Building requires building automation and controls to necessarily complement metering systems. By applying a single point ‘Smart Building – occupant/facility manager’ interface, the intelligence of the building shall take, if wanted, automatic decisions, thus unburdening people while at the same time allowing manual override and constituting an evidence base for helping make informed decisions to continuously improve the energy performance of buildings. For preventing the delay of implementation and  there are needs for harmonization of requirements at EU level and differentiation between residential and non-residential buildings, due to different building services installed and different use patterns.

To streamline the ‘making Buildings Smart’ process, a standardised approach and visibility (certification) are of most importance for having a sustainable process, for ensuring a transparent value proposition and a level playing field in the buildings sector.

Once with the adoption of the autumn ‘Energy Efficiency Package’ the European Commission shall set the way forward on this key piece of the energy system puzzle and as a result create added value for citizens and support the economic recovery.