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How smart sensors can help you comply with the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive

The Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) sets ambitious targets for improving the energy efficiency of buildings new and old. Here, we answer some common questions, explain the main requirements of the directive and look at how smart sensors and building automation systems will be crucial to meeting legislation.

What is the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive?

The Energy Performance of Buildings Directive is the European Union’s main piece of legislation aiming to promote the improvement of the energy performance of buildings. It seeks to encourage cleaner, more sustainable buildings – that’s existing building stock as well as new builds – with the eventual aim of making all European buildings CO2-neutral by 2050.

Buildings are a particular focus because the EU considers them to be responsible for approximately 36% of CO2 emissions. As such, the directive is relevant to anyone in the development, investment, funding and utilities sectors.


Will it still apply after Britain leaves the EU?

It’s complicated. Some of the deadlines issued by the EPBD fall long after the UK is likely to have left the EU. But it is likely that the directive will be transposed into national legislation before within the Brexit transition window.

Brexit or no Brexit, the appetite for sustainable buildings among both investors and consumers continues to increase, with measures such as renewable energy, smart automation and electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure becoming the new norm. In that respect, there are commercial reasons for implementing energy-efficiency measures, as well as environmental and political ones.


What are the key obligations and timescales?

The most recent directive, 2018/844/EU, was published on 19 June 2018 and came into force on 9 July 2018. Member states are required to transpose the EPBD into national law by 19 February 2020 and must adopt the legal and administrative regulations needed to comply with the EPBD by 10 March 2020.

The directive states that all new buildings must be ‘nearly zero-energy’ by 31 December 2020, while public buildings must meet the same criteria by 31 December 2018. According to the European Commission, nearly zero-energy buildings (NZEBs) are defined as having very high energy performance, with the low amount of energy they do consume coming mainly from renewable sources on site or nearby.

The biggest milestone is 2050, when all European countries must ensure that the entire building stock is upgraded to nearly zero-energy status, with a view to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the EU by 80-95% compared to 1990.

Member states will have to set their own milestones for 2030 and 2040 and must define ‘measurable progress indicators’ such as renovation rates or a cap on energy consumption per square metre. Penalties for failure to comply will also vary according to national governments.


What’s included in the directive?

Under the revised EPBD:

  • EU countries will have to establish long-term renovation strategies with the aim of de-carbonising national building stocks by 2050.
  • A common ‘smart readiness indicator’, or scheme for assessing the energy efficiency of building stock, will be introduced.
  • Smart technologies will be promoted through requirements on the installation of building automation and control systems.
  • Heating and air conditioning systems must be regularly inspected and their efficiency assessed in relation the heating requirements of the building.
  • Electric vehicles will be supported with minimum infrastructure requirements for buildings and car parks.
  • There’s a greater focus on the health and well being of building users, for example in terms of air quality and ventilation.


How can smart building technology / building automation help?

Previously, the focus of energy performance directives and measures has been improving the building envelope, or outer shell – optimising insulation, for example. Now, the focus has shifted and it’s all about the regulation and control of technical building equipment, which is why monitoring and building automation feature so heavily.

Here are some of the key requirements that explicitly mention, or could be better facilitated through, building automation:

    • Healthy indoor climate
      Exact requirements here are currently unclear, with member states required to define indoor air-quality and comfort levels. Once minimum standards have been set, temperature and air-quality sensors could be used to monitor conditions and automate control.
    • Inspection of heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems
      All heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems over 70kW must be regularly inspected and assessed in relation to the efficiency and sizing of the system against the requirements of the building, with a view to optimising performance. The directive emphasises that actual energy efficiency can only be assessed through regular monitoring. By 2025, non-residential building HVAC systems with an output of over 290 kW must be equipped with appropriate building automation systems, which allow energy use to be logged, analysed and adjusted, detect losses in efficiency, and inform responsible persons of opportunities for improved efficiency. The directive also states that building automation and electronic monitoring has proven to be an effective and cost-efficient replacement for inspections.
    • Smart readiness indicator
      The EPBD introduces the concept of the ‘smart readiness’ indicator, defined as the building’s capacity to use information and communication technologies and electronic systems to adapt the operation of buildings to the needs of the occupants and the grid and to improve the energy efficiency and overall performance of buildings. This enhanced functionality will be brought in through smart systems and devices such as building automation and control systems, self-regulating indoor air temperature systems, built-in appliances, EV charging points and energy storage.
    • Installation of self-regulating devices
      The directive strongly recommends the installation of self-regulating devices for individual room temperature control. Since control circuits require sensors, actuators and control equipment, this requirement can only be implemented through building automation.

To conclude, the revised directive places much greater importance on monitoring energy use and performance, and therefore on building automation and smart technologies. With these broad-brush EU-wide requirements in place, the next couple of years will see the adoption of national laws and regulations.

Until then, there’s never been a better time to improve energy efficiency around your building. If you’re interested in using smart sensors to monitor and automate controls – but aren’t sure where to start – get in touch with our team. You might also like to check out our article on types of smart building sensor and how they work.

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