BSRIA is a key partner in the iNSPiRe project and has worked on many similar projects related to older buildings and energy saving solutions. As part of iNSPiRe, the UK organisation carried out one of the largest assessments of Europe’s building stock ever undertaken, something that was vital if the project was to deliver the right solutions to the right buildings to make the greatest impact. BSRIA’s Sarah Birchall explains more.

Projects EEB: Can you briefly explain what BSRIA does in relation to EEB?

Sarah Birchall: BSRIA is a global consultancy, test, training and research company with the mission to make buildings better by working with organisations to deliver sustainable, energy efficient, low carbon buildings and improve the built environment. By working together with the whole built environment chain from client to consultant, contractor and facilities manager BSRIA generates and disseminates knowledge and the latest best practise delivering a sustainable and improved built environment.

PEEB: What studies did you carry out for the iNSPiRe project and what was the purpose of that research?

SB: Early on in the project it was realised that further knowledge of the existing building stock was required before renovation packages could be developed. One of BSRIA’s tasks was to undertake a literature survey on the current state of the residential and office building stock across Europe. The survey took into account the age of the buildings, structural characteristics and ownership. Energy usage, including electricity, heating and cooling was also assessed as well as patterns and preferences for levels of comfort in the home. Renewable sources of energy as well as local, regional and national policies were also considered.

As well as providing a valuable picture of Europe’s building stock – this was one of the biggest surveys of this type ever undertaken and the results are available for further energy projects – the study was conducted so iNSPiRe could identify target buildings that would benefit most from retrofitting and so develop appropriate solutions that would deliver the greatest energy impacts.

PEEB: What were the stand-out results of the iNSPiRe research? Do we now have a clear picture of the make-up of Europe’s building stock?

SB: The concentration of both residential and office space in the ‘big six’ countries of France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain and United Kingdom means that from an EU-wide perspective it will make most sense to identify building retrofit solutions that suit these countries first and foremost.

These six countries account for 72 per cent of residential and 71 per cent of office floor area. Across the EU-27, single family houses represent the majority of the heated floor area at 60 per cent. This means that although single family houses tend to have a larger floor area than MFH dwellings, MFHs still constitute around 50 per cent of dwellings and therefore 50 per cent of households. To be effective across the whole residential stock, retrofit solutions need to be designed to accommodate both single and multi-family houses. In particular, SFHs represent more than 60 per cent of residential floor area in the three countries with the highest populations (Germany, United Kingdom and France), and more than 50 per cent of floor area in Poland. Only in Spain and Italy are SFHs less than 40 per cent of floor area. Total heating energy consumption across residential and office sectors is 2299TWh/year and 159 TWh/year respectively, giving a ratio of 14:1. This underlines the importance of the residential sector in energy-reduction retrofit. However, the variability of the buildings in the residential sector means that this segment of the market is also harder to treat with standardised solutions.

The data used in this project was obtained from a literature survey covering previous research projects, energy agencies, census outputs and databases. The availability of detailed data, particularly for the office building stock was often limited and some assumption had to be made creating some uncertainties about the accuracy of the data presented. A novel approach using simulation has helped to fill in the gaps in literature to provide energy related data for the climatic regions, types and ages of dwellings across Europe.

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“To be effective across the whole residential stock, retrofit solutions need to be designed to accommodate both single and multi-family houses”

PEEB: What further research is needed to ensure Europe meets its ambitious energy targets?

SB: There is a great deal of technology available in the market place and being developed by projects like iNSPiRe that is proven to deliver considerable energy savings when fitted to older buildings. What is needed now is concerted effort to develop the mechanisms by which retrofit will be implemented. This will involve all stakeholders, from building owners, who will need to understand the benefits of making the investment to retrofit, to the construction industry, who will need to be made aware of what technology is available that will help them deliver better services to their customers. It is important, too, that policy makers, local governments and city planners develop the incentives to ensure widespread uptake of new solutions as well as promote the use of these solutions in publically owned and managed buildings. Finally, further work will be needed to deliver optimal integration of solutions so that the whole retrofit is considered holistically, meaning all aspects of energy use are considered as a whole and maximum savings can be made in one go.

PEEB: How will BSRIA play a role in promoting renovation and the type of holistic retrofitting practices developed by projects like iNSPiRe in the future?

SB: BSRIA will continue to use its networks and events to promote technologies and practices that fit the UK environment from both EU and UK sources. It will advise clients of these practices where they are applicable to the clients requirements.