Energy efficiency is reinventing building design and use

 

Energy efficiency is reinventing building design and use

The first World Efficiency trade show (ex Pollutec), which was held in Paris from 13 to 15 October 2015, demonstrated that consideration of climate issues is a powerful lever for innovation in all sectors, and primarily the building sector.

With the focus on low carbon, this inaugural edition at Porte de Versailles (it will be a biennial event) brought together some 15,000 visitors - 30% from abroad and 400 exhibitors from all over the world (industrials, engineering firms, service companies). For public and private players in the building sector, this trade show was a new opportunity for discussion on changing the way we build. Or on how to combine respect for the environment, quality of life, economic performance and responsible management.

Changing the way we build for energy performance

At the forefront of the debates, the question of energy performance of buildings remains central, with regards to both new buildings and renovations. To this day it remains the most advanced component of innovative initiatives to change the way we build. Why? The performance characteristic of buildings makes it possible to meet a triple objective, which is the corollary of the three pillars of any sustainable development approach:

 

  • environmental (by contributing to energy efficiency and carbon neutrality)
  • economic (by reducing energy bills for users)
  • social (by fighting against fuel poverty)

 

Achieving these ambitious objectives is a challenge for all players in the sector. Committed industrials can confirm that all architectural, technical and technological responses to energy performance requirements necessitate a highly significant change in ways and habits, if not a paradigm shift. This is why changing the way we build includes a brand new societal dimension based on a cardinal value: collaboration between the private and public sectors, as well as between professionals and individuals.

A paradigm shift for everyone

To meet regulatory objectives and the challenge of energy zero buildings (between now and 2020), professionals in the sector must question the performance of traditional materials and solutions that are recognised for their energy efficiency in terms of durability, sanitary quality, preservation of resources, etc. For example, without waiting for feedback, over at least a ten-year period, on the use of emerging materials (known as bio-sourced materials, currently very much in vogue), players in the building sector are already wondering about their durability, maintenance, fire resistance, etc.

For manufacturers of building products, energy performance implies eco-design approaches. Energy constraints become an opportunity for reflection and improvement, and therefore a source of innovation. In this regard, VMZINC has been deploying an in-depth eco-design method via procedures since 2009.

Energy performance also requires change of scale. For example, to install a heating system based on renewable energies or geothermal energy, it is not just the building that is taken into account, but the entire district and sometimes even the entire urban area. This coordination at regional level is in fact the only alternative for an effective and economically efficient response.

Energy performance is also a challenge for politicians because it requires commitment to exceed the limits of current local development regulations. In this regard, there is very significant room for improvement in France.

Energy performance invites us to reinvent architectural expression in buildings with positive energy so that all towns can preserve their identity. It also requires flawless coordination on the part of building professionals, right from the start of the project.

Lastly, energy performance means that all users of the building must be responsible. Without considerable changes in lifestyle habits, the level of performance possible on paper will never become a reality. Changing the way we live in our homes takes pedagogy, common sense and greater awareness on the part of the general public, as well as understanding that protection of the environment and preservation of natural resources concerns us all on a daily basis.

 

Roger Baltus
Engineer - Architect
VMZINC Communication Director

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