Working paper

Identifying macro-objectives for the life cycle environmental performance and resource efficiency of EU buildings

Working Paper 1
Sustainable building design and construction Energy Energy efficiency Building performance Life cycle greenhouse gas emissions European Union
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This working paper brings together the findings of the first stage in this study, which focusses on the identification of 'macro-objectives' for the environmental performance of the EU building stock. This stage is intended to provide an initial 'top down' view of what the strategic priorities (the 'macro-objectives') should be for the building sector.

In the context of this study, macro objectives encompass not only resource efficiency considerations, but also other significant environmental or functional performance aspects that have an influence on the lifecycle of buildings which should be addressed at EU level. These macro-objectives will in turn inform and set the scope for the identification of a common framework of indicators in the next stage of this study.

As a conclusion of this work package, two types of macro-objectives have been identified – those relating to 'life cycle environmental performance' and those relating to 'quality, performance and value'.

In the short term, six of these macro-objectives are proposed to be taken forward in order to identify related performance indicators which will make up the framework. These macro-objectives focus on the building level:

1. Greenhouse gas emissions from building life cycle energy use: Minimise the total GHG emissions along a buildings lifecycle, with a focus on building operational energy use emissions and embodied emissions.

2. Resource efficient material life cycles: Optimise building design, engineering and form in order to support lean and circular flows, extend long-term material utility and reduce significant environmental impacts.

3. Efficient use of water resources: Make efficient use of water resources, particularly in areas of identified long-term or projected water stress.

4. Healthy and comfortable spaces: Design, construction and renovation of buildings that protect human health by minimising the potential for occupier and worker exposure to health risks.

5. Resilience to climate change: The futureproofing of building thermal performance to projected changes in the urban microclimate, in order to protect occupier health and comfort.

6. Optimised life cycle cost and value: Optimisation of the life cycle cost and value of buildings, inclusive of acquisition, operation, maintenance and disposal.

In the medium to long term, a further set of up to ten macro-objectives have been identified which may potentially be considered for the identification of performance indicators. Further indicators at the building level could address productive workspaces and liveable and decent homes. The possibility of having indicators at the new-build neighbourhood level (for example, addressing travel patterns, urban pressure on land, green and low carbon infrastructure) and existing building stock level (for example, addressing overall stock performance and space utilisation efficiency) has also been identified.

Further to identification of the final set of macro-objectives, it is also proposed that some rules are set for the translation of macro-objectives into measurable indicators of building performance. These proposed rules would take into account how resources are used, and should as a starting point address aspects related to the unit of consumption, comparisons between different options for a building's form and reference to engineering design parameters.

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