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Green buildings: researchers call for fuller environmental assessment

December 15, 2016

Green buildings: researchers call for fuller environmental assessment

Over half of a low-energy building’s environmental impact occurred before it was even occupied, a new case study from Italy calculates. The researchers recommend expanding the environmental assessment of buildings from just the operational stage of a building’s life, when it is in use, to include production and transport of materials, construction activities and building maintenance. A wide range of environmental impacts should also be considered, they argue, and not just energy use.

Buildings are the biggest consumer of energy in Europe; in 2010 it was estimated that the building sector, considered as an end-user, accounts for 42% of energy consumption in EU countries — this compares with 32% for transport and 24% for industry. For this reason, the EU has pushed for greater energy efficiency of buildings and the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive1 calls for all new buildings to be ‘nearly zero energy’ by the end of 2020. A nearly zero-energy building is defined by this Directive as a building that has very high energy performance, and that the nearly zero or very low amount of energy required should be covered to a very significant extent by energy from renewable sources. The energy performance of a building is the energy demand associated with the typical use of the building, which includes energy used for heating, cooling, hot-water production, mechanical ventilation and lighting.

This study considers how the environmental performance of buildings could be improved further through assessment procedures which go beyond measuring energy consumption for the typical use of the building, as required by the Directive.

Read more at "Science for Environment Policy": European Commission DG Environment News Alert Service, edited by SCU, The University of the West of England, Bristol.

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