existing buildings

LEED, PassivHaus & BREEAM Housing ~ Atrocious Fire Safety !!

2016-04-11:  It Happened One Night !

And Maybe … if it hadn’t been that particular night, amidst all the festivities of New Year’s Eve 2015, we would never have heard about the Address Hotel Fire, in Dubayy (UAE).  A long search on the Internet afterwards led to the detailed, post fire analysis report on the 2014 Lacrosse Docklands Fire, in Melbourne (Australia) … followed by some more searching, and a very large can of worms opened up … similar nasty façade (external fabric) fires in many, many countries … involving large chunks of flaming debris falling from terrific heights, carried by the wind to a significant distance away from the building of fire origin.

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Some people have tried to suggest that the only reason for these fires is inadequate building codes/regulations.  No … the reason for these fires is much more than that … it’s the ‘SYSTEM’ !   In other words, how the International Construction Sector is organized and goes about its ordinary, everyday activities and tasks.  We must also talk about poor quality design and construction … and a lack of stringent, independent enforcement of effective building codes/regulations and standards.  I have written this down many times before … Self-Regulation is NO Regulation !!

It is clearly and amply evident that Conventional Fire Engineering … as currently practiced, internationally … is no longer ‘fit for purpose’.  For discussion at SFE 2016 DUBLIN.  Check out the Fire Conference Website: www.sfe-fire.eu … and on Twitter: @sfe2016dublin

And First Here With The Latest Conference News:

  • A Late Abstract Submission to the Dublin Fire Conference next September 2016 will deal with the topic of Façade Fires in Tall & Not-So-Tall Buildings ;   and
  • SFE 2016 DUBLIN will, from today, be working in co-operation with the biggest fire exhibition in China – CFE 2016 – 6th International Fire Safety Exhibition in Guangzhou, People’s Republic of China (PRC).

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IN IRELAND … 2015 TERRACED HOUSING FIRE …

The general public was shocked and stunned, to put it mildly, by a very rapid and extensive 2015 Terraced Housing Fire on the outskirts of the Dublin Region …

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[ See my Blog, dated 2011-04-06 … about a different, but related, 2011 Terraced Housing Fire in Terenure, a suburb of Dublin City.]

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[ Fast forward from 2011 … overtaking Priory Hall (see my series of Blogs) … to Longboat Quay, a large residential development on the south bank of the River Liffey, which flows through the middle of Dublin.  A recent visual/surface inspection of one of the units there revealed not just a poor quality of construction … but a lack of care and attention, with a mixture of incompetence and ignorance thrown in for good measure.]

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The 2015 Terraced Housing Fire, shown above, should not have been a surprise to the ‘System’ in Ireland.  Research carried out in the U.S.A., Belgium and The Netherlands since 2012, and a serious PassivHaus Apartment Fire in Köln, Germany, on the night of 5 February 2013  … have all shown that the modern home (highly insulated, airtight, packed with electronic equipment and wiring, and fast-burning synthetic furnishings, etc.) is the ‘perfect storm’ of fire conditions and outcomes.  More open residential design + increased fuel loads + new construction systems and materials = faster development of fires, much reduced times to flashover, far less time for occupant evacuation, particularly people with activity limitations … and shorter building collapse times.

The time to flashover in modern high-performance housing, i.e. Sustainable/Green/PassivHaus/Eco/LEED/Bio/+Energy/Low Carbon/BREEAM/Zero Carbon/SMART … can be 7 times faster than in conventional/legacy housing … or less than 5 minutes, compared with just over 29 minutes !

All of this research can be found on the Links & Docs Page of the SFE 2016 DUBLIN Website.

Let us be crystal clear … there is nothing Sustainable/Green/PassivHaus/Eco/LEED/Bio/+Energy/Low Carbon/BREEAM/Zero Carbon/SMART about the post-fire scenes of destruction shown above.  And only for the physical separation between terraces, which can be clearly seen in the last photograph … the fire would have kept spreading.

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URGENT FIRE SAFETY RECOMMENDATIONS …

Without a balanced, proper approach to the issue of Fire Safety in this type of modern, high-performance housing … occupant safety is seriously threatened.  And if, in the event of a fire incident, the occupants are asleep … or people with activity limitations are living in the house … that threat will be extremely grave indeed.

Reality – Reliability – Redundancy – Resilience !

So … what needs to change ?   In Ireland, our immediate problem is Timber-Framed Housing (as shown above) … and the following is an outline of what must change … NOW !

  1. Party Walls, i.e. the walls separating one house from another, must be constructed of solid masonry, with a uniform and uncompromised thickness of at least 200mm … plastered on both sides, not dry-lined, for adequate smoke resistance … and be continued above the roof covering for at least 300mm.
  2. An effective Fire Detection System must be installed.  The conventional ‘package’ of one smoke detector per floor in the hallway and staircase of a standard 2 storey semi-detached house is nowhere near being adequate.
  3. An effective Residential / Domestic Fire Suppression System must be installed, e.g. low pressure water mist.  See later post, dated 2016-06-13, for a costed notional installation.
  4. If there is a Controlled Ventilation System, either mechanical or natural, in the house (for the purposes of air quality, heat exchange and energy conservation), it must be linked to the fire detection system.  In the event of a fire incident, the Ventilation System must immediately cease operation, and remain ‘fully open’.  This is in order to mitigate the build-up of high positive pressure, within a confined airtight space, caused by a developing fire … and to provide an exhaust route for smoke and toxic gases … during the short period of time prior to activation of the fire suppression system.
  5. Intermediate Timber Floors and Evacuation Routes, including fire resisting doorsets, must be reliably protected from fire and smoke.  The minimum period of fire and smoke resistance must be linked to local fire service support infrastructure.  In other words, the local fire services must be allowed sufficient time to arrive at the scene of a fire in strength … to search for any occupants still remaining in the fire building … and to bring the fire under control.
  6. Uppermost Ceilings under a trussed timber roof structure, including any trap doorsets into the roof space, must be similarly and reliably protected from fire and smoke.  Once fire enters a roof space, the light trussed timber structure will collapse within a few minutes.
  7. Front and Back Entrance/Egress Doors must be outward opening.  In the 2013 German PassivHaus Apartment Fire, the occupant found it extremely difficult to open inward opening doors and windows because of the high positive pressure caused by the developing fire.  This unusual phenomenon was confirmed in the 2015 Finnish Apartment Fire Tests, when much higher positive pressures were observed.
  8. Internal Linings of External Walls must comprise 2 layers of plasterboard, with all joints staggered … steel fixed, at not more than 150mm centres.  Once fire breaches the internal lining of an external wall, the whole building will become involved in the fire.  Horizontal and vertical fire sealing behind these linings, even if properly installed (!), are too little and too late.
  9. Frontline Firefighters must be supported by specialist structural engineering and hazard appraisal units … and light/portable/reliable Thermal Imaging Cameras must be recognized as a standard tool of firefighting.

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SUSTAINABLE HOUSING & RESIDENTIAL BUILDINGS …

These building types are more popularly known as Green, PassivHaus / Passive House, LEED, Eco, Bio, BREEAM, +Energy, Zero / Low / Nearly Zero Carbon, or SMART, etc., etc, etc.   In ALL of these cases, however, an Effective Residential Fire Suppression System MUST BE INSTALLED, e.g. low pressure water mist !

In everyday practice … Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJ’s), and the Organizations and Individuals responsible for the far-too-rapid construction of these innovative building types are either completely and blissfully ignorant, or callously and negligently in denial, about the seriously negative impacts on Occupant & Firefighter Fire Safety and Building Fire Protection.

BUT … slowly … more and more reliable evidence is being gathered !   Please visit the Links & Docs Page on: www.sfe-fire.eu … and also view this Presentation on some very interesting 2015 Apartment Fire Tests in Finland: www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Ss_ONolzLY

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ENERGY CONSERVATION & EFFICIENCY UPGRADING OF EXISTING BUILDINGS …

In refurbishment projects where insulation is fixed to the internal surfaces of external walls … similar fire safety problems exist, and they must be solved by reviewing the full checklist above.  Refer again to the PassivHaus Apartment Fire in Köln, Germany, on the night of 5 February 2013 … and to the 2015 Apartment Fire Tests in Finland

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‘Passivhaus’ Standard is Not Enough in New Building Projects !

2013-09-10:  Recently, much ado has been made in the technical press about a New Multi-Storey Office Block in Vienna which has achieved the German ‘Passivhaus’ (Passive House) Standard

Multi-Storey 'RHW.2' Office Block in Vienna, Austria

Is There A Problem ??   Yes !!

1.   It takes approximately 3 Years of Building Occupation, by ‘real’ people, before the actual performance of a building can be properly monitored and reliably shown.  The building is still ‘drying out’ for the first year.  It takes at least one to two years of running the complex technologies and systems in today’s buildings … training people how to operate them efficiently and effectively … and fine-tuning and de-bugging as you go along … before everything begins to work together, as originally intended during the building design stage.  Then, if all goes well … in the third year of occupation, the careful (i.e. accurate and reliable) monitoring of ‘real’ building performance, by means of portable measuring devices and devices installed within the construction, can commence.

So … what exactly has achieved the German ‘Passivhaus’ (Passive House) Standard … the design intent for the building, or the building’s ‘real’ performance ???

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2.   Much more fundamentally … achieving this Standard is a good starting point … but in a new building project … It Is Not Enough !

A.  Energy Conservation and Efficiency Burden Sharing by Different Building Types

Separate strategies are required to greatly improve the energy performance of:

  • existing buildings … onto which many energy efficiency measures can be successfully grafted, but it will be difficult work and will certainly not be cheap ;
  • buildings of historical, architectural or cultural importance … the integrity of which must be protected ;   and
  • new buildings and facilities … which must therefore carry the major burden.

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B.  Paradigm for New Buildings – A ‘Positive Energy’ Return + Assured Building User Comfort

Primary Energy Consumption should be less than or equal to 15 kWh/m2/yr.

And …

Renewable Energy and Heating Systems should contribute a reliable quantity of energy, per year, which covers the following:

i)   the Building’s/Facility’s Primary Energy Consumption ;

ii)  an Energy Efficiency Degradation Factor which takes account of the degradation in energy efficiency …

(a)  normally expected during the life cycle of renewable energy and heating systems installed in the building.  The rate of degradation will depend on the quality of maintenance and servicing ;   and

(b)  caused by wasteful patterns of building management and/or use ;

iii) the energy consumed by Private Transport associated with the building or facility ;

iv) an Energy Return to an Intelligent District, Local or Regional Grid exceeding, by a multiple of 3 (three), the total energy consumed by the Building/Facility (including its Energy Efficiency Degradation Factor) and any associated Private Transport.

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Notes:

Primary Energy includes the energy required to generate, transmit and distribute electricity, as well as energy directly consumed on site.

User Thermal Comfort = Air Temperature + Mean Radiant Temperature + Air Humidity + Air Velocity, i.e. draughts (ISO 7730).

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And interestingly enough … on the Passivhaus WebSite (German language version)www.passivhaus.de/passivhaus-informationen/vom-passivhaus-zum-plusenergiegebaeude.html … this is now the thinking there also !!

Should have been happening 10 years ago !

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Climate Change ?#$#? … 2007 SDI Letter to John Gormley !

2011-01-29:  Some people say that a week is a long time in politics … but, here in Ireland, during the last two weeks … every single day feels like a year !   To the uninformed outside observer, this may have all the appearance of being an elaborate circus … but, we like our politics to be complex, interesting and very frothy.

Briefly … the Irish Green Party has recently removed itself, awkwardly, from the Ruling Coalition Government in this country … and the Green Party Agenda has gone up in smoke … definitely a Climate Changing Greenhouse Gas !   Mr. John Gormley T.D., Leader of the Green Party, has therefore resigned as Minister for the Environment, Heritage & Local Government … and his Green Party departmental colleague, Mr. Ciarán Cuffe T.D., Minister of State with special responsibility for Sustainable Transport, Horticulture, Planning and Heritage at the Departments of the Environment, Transport and Agriculture has also resigned.

With all of Ireland’s current economic woes … this decision by the Green Party has ensured that ‘Climate Change’ is fast dropping off the list of national priorities.

However, as a result of these political shenanigans … the word ‘Green’ has received a severe hammering and will induce a nasty taste in the mouths of many Irish Voters during the next few weeks which lead up to a General Election.  To be honest, I heartily cheer this development … since ‘GREEN’-ness, i.e. a sole and blinkered consideration for the Environmental Aspects of Sustainability is a ‘pre-version’ (fans of the film: ‘Dr. Strangelove’ will understand what I mean) of Sustainable Human & Social Development.  It is also a peculiar quirk of ‘greens’ that they love the environment … but hate people !

As a prelude to what I will say about the proposed enabling legislation for climate change action in Ireland … the 2010 Climate Change Response Bill … I thought that it would be interesting to reveal the contents of a submission I made to Mr. John Gormley back in late 2007.  Concerning his reaction … I wondered how it was possible for anybody to write such a long letter in reply, and say nothing.

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Mr. John Gormley T.D.,                                                                                           2007-12-18.

Minister for the Environment, Heritage & Local Government,

Department of the Environment, Heritage & Local Government (DEHLG),

Custom House – Dublin 1.

Re:  Your Meeting with IIEA on Friday, 7th December 2007

Dear Minister,

At the Meeting with the Institute of International & European Affairs (IIEA), in North Great George’s Street, I raised two points directly with you:

     i)   The Great Difference between ‘Real’ Building Energy Performance and Claimed ‘Theoretical’ Performance.   In a context where the mandatory use of long wave infra-red thermal imagery will not be introduced in the Revised Technical Guidance Document L of the Building Regulations, due to be issued shortly, and there will continue to be No Effective System of Building Control anywhere in the country … no relationship exists between Claimed ‘Theoretical’ Performance and ‘Real’ Performance, such is the poor quality of construction on Irish Building Sites.  The Energy Numbers which continue to be produced by Sustainable Energy Ireland are – almost – pure fantasy.

     ii)  Sourcing of Climate Change Research & Models for Necessary Institutional Reform Must Extend Beyond Britain.   The following is taken from the Irish National Climate Change Strategy 2007-2012 (page 45) …

‘ Ireland has also engaged in an exchange of information on impacts and adaptation activities through the British-Irish Council. This initiative has focused on exchanging data on research projects which have improved the understanding of climate change impacts at a local level.’

I suggested to you that if this were, actually, to be the approach to Research in Ireland … we will be in serious trouble.  Furthermore, far too many people in important organizations (including the IIEA) are only looking across the water for Models of Necessary Institutional Reform.  We must also, in Ireland, look to the rest of Europe and Japan to find the Best Research and the Most Effective Institutional Models.

Please see the enclosed World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) Summary Report: ‘Energy Efficiency in Buildings – Business Realities & Opportunities’ (October 2007), which was presented at an important Paris Conference at the beginning of November, 2007.

This Report looks at what can be achieved in Europe and many other parts of the world – today – using currently available building technologies and systems … IF ‘real’ implementation is taken seriously.  Barriers to progress and costs have also been examined.

In the final analysis, however, a properly resourced Indigenous Research Capability, focused on Irish Conditions and Needs, is vitally necessary to drive ‘Real’ Performance and Innovation in this country.

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Post-Bali Leadership from Ireland (and DEHLG !)

A Kyoto II Instrument will be agreed and ratified before the end of 2012.  The 1997 UNFCCC Kyoto Protocol must now be seen, therefore, as just the beginning of a long-term process which will last until the end of the century.  Some Necessary Direction and a large pinch of Ethical Leadership are urgently required to properly re-position Ireland in this Process.

The following Post-Bali Target Scenario for Ireland is presented for your consideration:

  • Ireland should set 1990 as the Benchmark/Base Year for All Kyoto Greenhouse Gases ;
  • Statements of Measurement and Calculation Uncertainty should be fully transparent (nationally, and at EU level), and made at every stage of Ireland’s Kyoto Compliance ;
  • The EU’s Objective of a 30% Reduction in Greenhouse Gases by 2020, compared to 1990, is the Relevant Short Term Target (refer to Paragraph 31 of the German Presidency Conclusions from the E.U. Council’s Brussels Summit on 8th and 9th March 2007) ;
  • As our ‘Real’ Performance, under Kyoto I, continues to be so weak and disingenuous … we should not expect to receive as generous an intra-EU burden sharing arrangement as before.  Instead, Ireland should adopt the 2020 National Target of a similar 30% Reduction in Greenhouse Gases, compared to 1990 ;
  • Our Contingency Target for 2020 should be a 33% Reduction in Greenhouse Gases, compared to 1990.  When considering ‘real’ performance in any field of human endeavour, it is usual to include a safety factor in any calculations …. in this case, 3% ;
  • Ireland’s Recourse to the Use of Carbon Sinks and Kyoto Mechanisms in meeting the 2020 Contingency Target should be restricted to 1/4 of ‘Real’ Performance …
    • ‘Real’ Performance (no sinks/mechanisms) – minimum 24% Reduction in Greenhouse Gases by 2020, compared to 1990 ;
    • Use of Carbon Sinks and Kyoto Mechanisms – 9% Reduction in Greenhouse Gases by 2020, compared to 1990 (this figure includes the contingency 3%) ;   and
    • As the Construction Sector (when properly identified) should share more of the national burden than, for example, Agriculture …. its Target should be a 40% Reduction in Greenhouse Gases by 2020, compared to 1990.  Remember the range of reductions which were initially proposed at Bali …. 25-40% ?
  • Part 1 of SDI’s Submission for the Irish Construction Sector (IIEA Climate Change Project, Sectors Sub-Group – June 2007) stressed the great need to properly restore the Construction Sector’s Infrastructure.  Otherwise, this Sector will not be able, in reality, to reach any Energy Performance Targets … low or high.  Of course, what will eventually appear on paper, or as a computer print-out, is an entirely different matter !

However, having been able to access information about the recent WBCSD Research Project, and using it as a valid substantiation … it then became possible to deal with the issue of Energy Performance Targets for All Buildings (new, existing and those of historical, architectural and cultural importance) more aggressively.

Enclosed, please also find Part 2 of SDI’s Submission for the Construction Sector (IIEA Climate Change Project, Sectors Sub-Group – November 2007).

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Ireland’s Climate Change Strategy ?

     1.  Ireland’s Current ‘Real’ Situation with Regard to Kyoto (I) Compliance should be clearly understood by the Irish Public.  Using the recently issued European Environment Agency (EEA) Report 5/2007: ‘Greenhouse Gas Emission Trends & Projections in Europe 2007 – Tracking Progress Towards Kyoto Targets’, we have extracted just a few snippets of interesting information (enclosed) …

  • Instead of 1990, Ireland has chosen 1995 as the Base Year for HFC’s, PFC’s & SF6 ;
  • Ireland’s Per Capita greenhouse gas emissions are nearly the worst in the EU-27 ;
  • Ireland’s Per GDP greenhouse gas emissions are far too high ;
  • Ireland’s ‘Real’ Distance-To-Target (no sinks/mechanisms) is very bad.

Ireland is still grimly grasping on to a ‘Business as Usual’ Approach.  This is actually being reinforced by the relevant Institutions of the State, who insist on merely Playing with Numbers … and then publishing Cosmetic Public Relations Brochures for consumption in Ireland and, unfortunately, on the wider European and International Stages.

     2.  The following National Policy/Strategy Documents & Legislation should directly relate to one other, and their implementation should be tightly co-ordinated …

  • National Sustainable Development Strategy ;
  • National Climate Change Strategy ;
  • National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy ;
  • National Spatial Strategy ;
  • National Development Plan ;
  • National Public Procurement Law.

Not only have some of the above not yet even been drafted, but others are unacceptably inadequate, outdated and/or fundamentally flawed.  And the synergies which would normally accrue from co-ordinated implementation are being lost.

     3.  The World Business Council for Sustainable Development has identified Buildings as one of the five main users of energy where ‘megatrends’ are needed to transform global energy efficiency in the immediate short term, and so meet the daunting challenge of Climate Change Adaptation.  They account for 40% of primary energy (primary energy includes the energy required to generate, transmit and distribute electricity, as well as energy directly consumed on site) in most developed countries, and consumption is rising.

Nothing less than a Complete Cultural Shift will be necessary throughout this Sector, beginning with all research and design disciplines and extending right across to any person who works on a construction site or has any part to play in managing, maintaining or servicing a building.

Yet, Irish Construction is not presented as a Coherent Sector anywhere in National or European Greenhouse Gas Databases.

Separate Strategies are urgently required to greatly improve the energy performance of:

  • Existing Buildings … onto which many energy efficiency measures can be successfully grafted, but they will not be cheap ;
  • Buildings of Historical, Architectural or Cultural Importance … the integrity of which must be protected ;   and
  • New Buildings, which must therefore carry the major burden.

     4.  Raising the (General) Awareness of Irish Society regarding Climate Change and Mobilizing People and Organizations for (Effective) Action are two entirely different concepts.  Which concept is informing Strategy Development within the DEHLG ?

A €15 m. Marketing Campaign, spread over 4-5 Years and including the ‘Change’ WebSite (!?!?), will not mobilize anyone … to do anything.

     5.  Your proposals concerning Necessary Building Energy Efficiency Improvements to be included in the Revised Technical Guidance Document L are inadequate.  Part L should be applicable to ALL New Buildings.

It has also been insufficiently emphasized in public discussions/consultations concerning this issue that any proposed Building Energy Efficiency Improvements must take place in a context of stringent control during construction (by a sufficient number of competent Local Authority Building Controllers and/or Independent Technical Controllers) and rigorous post-construction energy performance monitoring (using long wave infra-red thermal imagery, in conjunction with building external fabric air seepage tests).  Follow-up observation of post-occupation building energy performance will also be required.

This is the one – and only – means of …

  • tweaking Computer Software Tools so as to produce more realistic outputs ;   and
  • obtaining reliable construction-related energy performance data and statistics.

Please Note Well:  Without suitable references to the use of long wave infra-red thermal imagery (essential, if working at ambient temperatures – short wave, if working at high temperatures) in Section 5, the Revised TGD L will be absolutely meaningless !!

Because of wasteful patterns of building management and/or use – even in the most energy efficient building – we would also stress that far more attention should be paid to the concept of Intelligent Energy Efficiency Management.

     6.  We strongly urge you, in accordance with the 2007 Bali Action Plan, to rapidly advance development of the National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy, and to ensure that it is properly implemented.

     7.  We call for the creation of an adequately resourced Sustainable Development Commission with the necessary legal mandate, independence and technical expertise to monitor – in an integrated, continual and proactive manner – Ireland’s mitigation and adaptation performance in relation to the adverse effects of climate change.  We also call for a New Social Partnership for Sustainable Development & Climate Change Adaptation.  Addressing Climate Change must be considered an integral element of Sustainable Development Policies.

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At Sustainable Design International … we continue to find, in everyday practice, that the most challenging barriers to Policy Implementation are Institutional – lack of proper horizontal policy integration in Public Authorities, and antiquated approaches to management in Private Organizations.  At every level, the concept of Sustainable Human & Social Development is poorly understood.

Should you have any questions or comments, please contact me at your convenience.

Yours sincerely,

C.J. Walsh,  etc., etc.

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Harmonized Indicators of Building GHG & Energy Performance

[ BER Certificates (VII) : UNFCCC COP-15 : CIB W108 – Climate Change and the Built Environment ]

2009-12-18:  Even before the gatherings of UNFCCC COP-15 & Kyoto Protocol MOP-5 began … some remarkably positive progress on difficult technical issues had already been made at international level.  Hot off the presses … comes an important document from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Sustainable Buildings & Construction Initiative (SBCI): ‘Common Carbon Metric’ (December 2009), which was specifically prepared for presentation at Copenhagen.

Leading experts from around the world have developed a standardized method of measuring a building’s carbon footprint … allowing greenhouse gas emissions from buildings anywhere in the world to be consistently assessed and compared.  In the case of existing buildings, improvements can also be measured.

This harmonized method for MRV (Measurable, Reportable & Verifiable) GHG Emissions and Energy Use provides the basis for establishing baselines, performance benchmarking, and monitoring building performance improvements.  These activities are, in turn, fundamental in informing international mechanisms for carbon trading, policy development and analysis, and progress reporting on the mitigation of GHG Emissions from buildings.  Policy and decision makers can produce reports from the data collected through these Metrics/Indicators for jurisdictions, regions, large building stock owners, cities or at a national level to form baselines that can be used to set targets and show improvements in carbon mitigation throughout the building sector.

I am pleased to say that Monsieur Jean-Luc Salagnac (CSTB France), Co-Ordinator of CIB Working Commission 108 : Climate Change and the Built Environment, was directly involved in its development …

Colour image showing the cover page of the UNEP-SBCI 'Common Carbon Metric', recently published in December 2009.  Click to enlarge.

Colour image showing the cover page of the UNEP-SBCI ‘Common Carbon Metric’, recently published in December 2009. Click to enlarge.

 UNEP-SBCI ‘Common Carbon Metric’ (December 2009)  for measuring, reporting and verifying (mrv) greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption of buildings in use.

Click the Link above to read/download PDF File (1.97 MB)

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Recommendations on Implementing the New Harmonized Approach

All research, design and teaching disciplines involved in the European Building Sector … extending right across to any person who works on a construction site or has any part to play in managing, maintaining, servicing or operating a building … should familiarize himself/herself/themselves with the contents of this document.

As soon as practicable … calculation methods, computer software packages, reports, BER Certificates, etc … and working practices generally … should all be revised and updated to take account of this newly harmonized approach.

Whatever the outcome from Copenhagen in December 2009 … in terms of the presentation of priorities … these should now be switched around … with a strong first emphasis being placed on ‘GHG Emissions’ from Buildings … followed by, and secondly, ‘Energy Consumption’ resulting from the Use/Occupation of Buildings.

What is Measured in the UNEP-SBCI ‘Common Carbon Metric’ ?

While all stages of a building’s life cycle produce GHG Emissions, building use accounts for 80-90% of these emissions … resulting from energy consumed mainly for heating, cooling, ventilation, lighting and electric/electronic appliances.  This, therefore, is the stage of the building’s life cycle that is the focus of the ‘Common Carbon Metric’.

The following Metrics/Indicators shall be used to compile consistent and comparable data:

1.  Energy Intensity = kWh/m2/year (kilo Watt hours per square metre per year)

Scope: Emissions associated with building energy end-use defined in Appendix 1 are included; purchased electricity, purchased ‘coolth'(opposite of warmth)/steam/heat, and/or on-site generated power used to support the building operations.  If available, emissions associated with fugitives and refrigerants used in building operations should be reported separately.

If available, occupancy data should be correlated with the building area to allow Energy Intensity per occupant (o) to be calculated = kWh/o/year.

GHG Emissions are calculated by multiplying the above Energy Intensity times the official GHG emission coefficients, for the year of reporting, for each fuel source used (see Appendix 3).

2.  Carbon Intensity = kgCO2e/m2/year or kgCO2e/o/year (kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalent per square metre or per occupant per year)

Note: GHG conversion factors for each fuel type shall be the same as those used under national reporting for flexible mechanisms for the Kyoto Protocol for the six GHG Gases (see Appendix 4).

Why Buildings ?

The environmental footprint of the Building Sector includes: 40% of energy use, 30% raw materials use, 25% of solid waste, 25% water use, and 12% of land use.  While this new document focuses on the scope of emissions related to energy use of building operations (see Appendix 1), future metrics are required to address these other impacts in addition to social and financial impacts.  At this time the UN’s top priority is climate change … and the building sector is responsible for more than one third of Global GHG Emissions and is, in most countries, the largest emissions source.  While 80-90% of the energy used by the building is consumed during the use (or operational) stage of a building’s life cycle (for heating, cooling, ventilation, lighting, appliances, etc.), the other 10-20% (figure varies according to the life of the building), is consumed during extraction and processing of raw materials, manufacturing of products, construction and de-construction.  Furthermore, significant energy is used in transporting occupants, goods and services to and from the building.

The UNEP-WMO Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 4th Assessment Report estimated that building-related GHG Emissions reached 8.6 billion metric tons (t) CO2equivalent (e) in 2004, and could nearly double by 2030, reaching 15.6 billion tCO2e under their high-growth scenario.  The report further concluded that the building sector has the largest potential for reducing GHG Emissions and is relatively independent of the price of carbon reduction (cost per tCO2e) applied.  With proven and commercially available technologies, the energy consumption in both new and existing buildings can be cut by an estimated 30-50% without significantly increasing investment costs.  Energy savings can be achieved through a range of measures including smart design, improved insulation, low-energy appliances, high efficiency ventilation and heating/cooling systems, and conservation behaviour by building occupants.

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BER Certificates, Energy Efficiency & Climate Change (II)

2009-02-23:  The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) has identified buildings as one of the five main users of energy where ‘megatrends’ are needed to transform global energy efficiency in the immediate short term, and so meet the daunting challenge of Climate Change Adaptation.  They account for 40% of primary energy (primary energy includes the energy required to generate, transmit and distribute electricity, as well as energy directly consumed on site) in most developed countries, and consumption is rising. 

                         … 2007 WBCSD Energy Efficiency in Buildings (EEB) Project

 

 

If you find that you are not responding emotionally to that … please leave your computer immediately and take a cold shower !   When you return, check out how far adrift Ireland is – even on paper – in meeting its legally binding 1997 Kyoto Protocol (UNFCCC) responsibilities.  After 2012, the European Union’s 2020 Targets will be in a different league altogether.

 

Let there be do doubt, therefore, that over the next few years … nothing less than a complete cultural shift will be necessary throughout the European Construction Sector – and this very much includes Ireland – beginning with all research and design disciplines and extending right across to any person who works on a construction site or has any part to play in managing, maintaining or servicing a building.

 

 

 

Burden Sharing in the Built Environment

 

Separate Energy Efficiency Strategies will be required to vastly improve the energy performance of:

         existing buildings … onto which many energy efficiency measures can be successfully grafted … but they will not be cheap, and they will not be 100% effective ;

         buildings of historical, architectural or cultural importance … the integrity of which must be protected ;   and

         new buildings, which must therefore carry the major burden.

 

In addition … if we fully value the Agricultural Industry in Ireland, the burden to be carried by New Buildings may have to be far heavier.

 

 

 

Suggested Building Energy Efficiency Targets in Ireland to 2020

 

From the Beginning of 2012, i.e. after an Essential Transition Period involving extensive re-education and up-skilling, accompanied by ‘attractive’ incentives …

         Require all New Buildings to achieve a Minimum Building Energy Rating (BER) of ‘A1’ … indicating a Primary Energy Consumption less than or equal to 25 kWh/m2/yr.  And require 40% of Primary Energy Consumed to be, directly or indirectly, from Renewable Energy Sources ;

         Require all Existing Buildings to achieve a Minimum Building Energy Rating (BER) of ‘B1’ … indicating a Primary Energy Consumption less than or equal to 100 kWh/m2/yr.  And require 15% of Primary Energy Consumed to be, directly or indirectly, from Renewable Energy Sources.  Retain Incentive Measures to achieve better performance with regard to energy efficiency and/or renewable energies ;

         Require Buildings of Historical, Architectural or Cultural Importance to achieve a Minimum Building Energy Rating (BER) of ‘C1’ … indicating a Primary Energy Consumption less than or equal to 175 kWh/m2/yr.  Retain Incentive Measures to achieve better energy efficiency performance.  No legal requirements or incentives with regard to Renewable Energies should apply to Buildings of Historical, Architectural or Cultural Importance.

 

From the Beginning of 2015

         Require all New Buildings to be ‘Positive Energy Buildings’ (see below) ;

         Require all Existing Buildings to achieve a Minimum Building Energy Rating (BER) of ‘A2’ … indicating a Primary Energy Consumption less than or equal to 50 kWh/m2/yr.  And require a Positive Energy Contribution of 25 kWh/m2/yr to be from renewable Energy Systems installed in the building ;

         Require Buildings of Historical, Architectural or Cultural Importance to achieve  a Minimum Building Energy Rating (BER) of ‘B1’ … indicating a Primary Energy Consumption less than or equal to 100 kWh/m2/yr.  Retain Incentive Measures to achieve better energy efficiency performance.  No legal requirements or incentives with regard to Renewable Energies shall apply to Buildings of Historical, Architectural or Cultural Importance.

 

 

 

‘Effective’ Technical Control of Construction & Post-Occupation Buildings

 

Any proposed Building Energy Efficiency/Conservation and Renewable Energy Improvements must take place in a legal environment of stringent control during construction (by competent Local Authority Building Controllers and/or Independent Technical Controllers) and rigorous post-construction energy performance monitoring (using Long Wave Infra-Red Thermal Imagery, in conjunction with building roof and external wall Air Seepage Tests).  Observation of post-occupation building energy performance will also be necessary.  Introduce mandatory 5-Yearly Energy Surveying of Buildings.

 

 

 

The Paradigm for New Buildings – A ‘Positive Energy’ Return

 

Primary Energy Consumption is less than or equal to 15 kWh/m2/yr.  Renewable Energy & Heating Systems then contribute a reliable quantity of energy, per year, which covers the following:

         the Building’s Primary Energy Consumption ;

         an Energy Efficiency Degradation Factor which takes account of the degradation in energy efficiency normally expected during the life cycle of renewable energy and heating systems installed in the building (the rate of degradation will depend on the quality of maintenance and servicing) … and caused by wasteful patterns of building management and/or use ;

         the energy consumed by Private Transport associated with the building ;

         an Energy Return to an Intelligent District or Regional Grid exceeding, by a whole number multiple determined by reference to local conditions, the total energy consumed by the Building (including its Energy Efficiency Degradation Factor) and any associated Private Transport.

 

Uniquely, this more practical elaboration of the innovative concept of Positive Energy Buildings considers life cycle energy efficiency degradation.

 

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