Most large developing countries have a building energy code or other building efficiency policies. However, testing and rating systems to assess the energy performance of building materials often lag behind these codes and policies. Building materials play a key role in setting the energy footprint of a building. Poorly performing or poorly labeled materials can result in higher energy use and lack of market incentives to produce high efficiency products. This paper provides an overview of the types of testing, rating and labeling systems in place the U.S., Europe, China and other large countries, highlighting elements that can make a system more robust or weaken it.
Then based on the example of Vietnam, the paper describes how a country can develop a road map for improving its system for testing, rating and labeling building materials for energy performance. Key elements include reviewing domestic capabilities and the institutional framework to test materials; certifying laboratories and building their capacity; prioritizing the test standards for development or adaptation based on clear criteria and stakeholder feedback; and designing labels and ratings. In addition, the road map can consider options to ensure that the new system is robust and meets domestic needs, for example, by providing incentives to products that get tested, having random testing of materials, and piggybacking the new system to test materials for energy performance on existing material testing systems for structural performance.
Testing, rating and labeling systems for building materials are an essential element of most building energy efficiency policies. Vietnam is enhancing its standards for the built environment with a particular eye toward improving building energy code implementation in new buildings. Vietnam has an existing system of standardization that includes testing and rating of many products. However, the system does not, for the most part, cover the energy efficiency properties of building materials. This presents the Government of Vietnam with an opportunity to build a system from the bottom up, learning from international and Vietnamese best practices. Examples of these best practices include ensuring that the test standards are rigorous and match the needs of a hot, humid climate, as well as designing product testing so that results are accurate and consistent. Other countries that aim to improve energy efficiency of the built environment may also learn from these best practices. When high performance materials get the credit they deserve through clear testing, rating and labeling, the market for these products expands and it becomes easier to build energy efficient buildings.