Energy Efficient Buildings

In brief

The EU puts a significant emphasis on improving energy efficiency in buildings. The Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) is a key part of the European Commission's Fit-for-55 package, and aims to help countries achieve a zero-emissions building stock by 2050, to deliver climate, economic, and social benefits for EU citizens. A Commission proposal for the EPBD revision is being negotiated between the European Parliament and Council. The proposal tackles the renovation and retrofit of the building stock, preservation of historical and heritage buildings, and new nearly zero-energy public, office and residential buildings (NZEB) with tools like the Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS) regime, Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs), Renovation Passports, calculation of life-cycle global warming potential (GWP) of new buildings, and the Smart Readiness Indicator, but also through facilitation of access to finance.

Our view

Using concrete in buildings contributes to energy efficiency thanks to its high thermal mass. When it is warm, concrete elements absorb excess heat, slowing the rise in temperature in indoor rooms. When temperatures fall in the evening, the concrete releases this heat, keeping indoor rooms at a comfortable temperature. This leads to energy savings and produces a better indoor climate for building occupants.

According to CEMBUREAU, the contribution of structural building materials with a high thermal mass should be mandatory when calculating the energy performance of a building. As indicated in a study by 3E, thermal mass in heavyweight buildings can provide the flexibility to store energy and respond to the needs of the electricity grid by allowing for consumer energy demand to be shifted in time (“active demand response”) by using structural thermal energy storage. This could result in up to a 25% CO2 reduction per dwelling, up to 50% reduction in the need for peak electricity supply capacity and savings of up to €300 per household per year. Thermal mass can also contribute to greater uptake of renewable energy in buildings. Furthermore, thanks to their air-tightness and durability, the energy consumption of concrete buildings is greatly reduced over their whole life.

Position Paper
The EPBD revision: An occasion to unleash the potential of thermal mass for electricity grid flexibility with benefits for the environment and households
Structural Thermal Energy Storage
The view of cement sector
Concrete, thermal mass, and avoiding overheating in buildings