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BSRIA WMI Business Manager

Importance of legislation

Ultimately legislation and incentives will be the key to meet carbon neutrality targets. In China, the target to become carbon-neutral is by 2060, 10 years later than Europe and the US. As 99% of buildings are existing buildings,  it is not enough to target only new build with legislation and incentives, rather it will require solutions for existing buildings, which might involve building envelopes – including insulation. The risk is that incentives dry-up before producing the desired effect.

While the US is a consumer-driven, conservative market with regionalised legislation, the European market is policy-driven and there is greater awareness and incentive to switch to more efficient and lower-GWP products. In China, the market is heavily influenced and directed by government legislation and the switch to renewables is a little longer term.

Steve Nadel
Executive Director of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE)

Importance of energy efficiency

Energy efficiency will get you halfway to decarbonisation. One of the major drivers is utilities spending on energy efficiency programmes. In terms of HVAC decarbonisation options, most of the attention is on electrification. Can we switch over to heat pumps using a carbon-free grid? Two limitations are low payback due to low natural gas price and growing winter peaks. The second option is to decarbonise fuel and use energy efficiency but supplies, like renewable natural gas and hydrogen, are limited and expensive.

Dr. Aaron Gillich
Associate Professor and Director of the recently created Net Zero Building Centre, a collaborative venture between BSRIA and the London South Bank University

Importance of decreasing heating and cooling loads

These are centred around the two ideas of decarbonisation and digitalisation. The opportunity is to treat the two together as we enter a space where, due to shifting demand in the electricity grid, every single kWh is going to be increasingly competitive. The idea is that it is not about the performance of any individual device but how we set these devices up to communicate with one another and integrate towards an overall energy-use intensity target. Looking at drivers for 2030, the most impactful is the reality itself, as climate change is moving faster than we are and the impacts and consequences are accelerating. Targets have and will keep being brought forward affecting other drivers, including regulations, planning and markets. Additionally, as we saw with Covid, the recognition of an emergency can significantly change the regulatory landscape.

Tom Garrigan
BSRIA’s Technical Director

Importance of balancing energy efficiency against maintaining indoor air quality

The performance envelope of the building needs to be fully understood to maximise both. Energy efficiency depends on fabric performance (airtightness and thermal performance, correctly specified) HVAC equipment, (fully integrated single functional) building management system, (planned preventative) maintenance and people (behaviour). Indoor air quality is made up of five key elements, thermal comfort, indoor air quality, noise, odours and light. There are many considerations and in some instances a balance needs to be struck to maximise energy efficiency and indoor environmental quality. They should both equally form an integral part in the design brief whether in new build or retrofit. A far greater emphasis needs to be on treating the building as a system where there is a holistic approach to integrating components, products and other interrelating systems. Additionally, in-use performance is going to be a more prominent metric in the future, and this requires the gap between design and reality to be sizeably reduced.

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