iNSPiRe is a four-year, EC-funded project that aims to tackle the problem of high-energy consumption by producing systemic renovation packages that can be applied to residential and office buildings. We spoke to Sarah Birchall of BSRIA about their role of collecting data on the existing European building stock.

Energy waste in buildings is a common concern to all countries within the European Union. However, the variety of buildings that exist throughout Europe means that there is no common solution to these energy efficiency issues. The project partners of iNSPiRE are thus working together to build a deeper understanding of the range of building stock within the EU in order to provide a basis for developing new approaches and technologies.

“In the end, the bigger focus of the project will be in refurbishment of buildings, but in order to establish what sort of buildings we should be looking at and what solutions we want, we first need to understand what the state of the current building stock across Europe is,” says Birchall. “We are collecting data on residential buildings and office buildings so that we can suggest which types our partners should focus on later on in the project.”

Data for this task has been found via a variety of different means. Previous European projects and government data are a rich source of information on housing, although working out the numbers of different types of houses, in terms of construction types, has proven difficult. The real challenge, however, lies with the office buildings. “Data for office buildings does not exist in the same way as it does for houses, as there are usually less strict government regulations on them, meaning they are less closely monitored,” says Birchall. “We are looking at buildings that date back to 1945, and so for some of them there is a complete lack of data or documentation. One of the ways we tackled this issue was by identifying experts from each country and obtaining a subjective view from them about how construction has changed through the years, and also about energy consumption of buildings.”

Collecting this type of information for every member state of the EU is certainly no small task. Birchall and her colleagues are now in the process of pooling the data from all the countries, as well as investigating current and historic policies on building and refurbishment regulations as well as financial incentives for retrofitting.

The next stage will involve a validation exercise by which the researchers will ascertain which are the most sensible numbers collected when there is conflicting data from numerous sources. This data will be used to provide the input for numerical simulations of identified target buildings representing the vast majority of the building stock, which will complement the missing data.