Energy-efficient construction in Europe

Blog Post

Energy-efficient construction in Europe

27 Oct 2011

The European Union (EU) has adopted a framework for energy efficiency, setting a target for all new buildings and major renovations in the EU to be ‘nearly zero energy’ by 2020.

The definition will vary depending on country, but essentially a ‘nearly zero energy building’ is one that has a very high energy performance, with the majority of any energy used coming from renewable sources. The plan is to also refurbish existing buildings to transform them into nearly zero energy buildings. Regulatory support for this initiative has begun, and will increase with the 2011 and 2014 updates of National Energy Efficiency Action Plans.

Germany has some great examples of ultra low energy buildings, including the headquarters of the government-owned German Bank KfW, is one of the country’s most energy-efficient buildings. Designed by architect Sauerbruch Hutton, the colourful tower has an incredibly low annual energy consumption of 7 kilowatt (kW) per square foot. Remarkably, the building is naturally cooled by fresh breezes, thanks to a unique double skin composed of thousands of computer-controlled windows that let just the right amount of air in. The double windows provide ample natural light as well as cutting incoming heat gain.

In Rotkreuz, Switzerland, the Roche tower, which stands 68 metre high, is a beautiful representation of energy-efficient construction. The tower was a winning entry in a competition hosted in 2008, after successfully following a brief that required plans for a high rise building with a high energy performance. It is vertically separated into three parts; a six metre high lobby, a 13 floored office space, as well as an auditorium. An integral part of the building’s energy efficiency encompasses a closed cavity facade, which includes internal ventilation and heating.

It’s not all about high rise buildings or office blocks as back in the UK, London-based Bere:Architects, champions the quest for energy-efficient homes. The creation of a Passivhaus in Camden, provides a heavily insulated timber-framed, 118 square metre, two bedroom home, which aims to reduce energy bills by 90 per cent. The term Passivhaus refers to an advanced low-energy construction standard that ensures homes are cool in the summer, warm during the winter, as well as ventilated with perfect air humidity levels. As a result, the energy-efficient home maintains a high level of indoor air quality while consuming much less energy than other south-facing terraced houses in the area.

Energy-efficient glazing plays a significant role in the design of ultra-low energy buildings and innovative glass solutions will be employed in the EU to help meet its ambitious target for ‘zero energy buildings’. Pilkington energiKare™ glazing incorporates Pilkington K Glass™, our market leading low-emissivity glass, click here for more information.