World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD)

Sustainable Design International Ltd. – Our Practice Philosophy

2012-10-25:   The Practice Philosophy of Sustainable Design International Ltd. is an issue which has occupied my mind greatly during this past summer … as I asked myself some difficult questions …

What has really been happening to our planet since 1992 … and earlier, since 1972 ?

Where is SDI now ?

Are we on the same track … the right track ?

Where are we going in the short to medium-term future ?

Architecture … is practice as a separate design disciple now obsolete ?

Fire Engineering … can it be dragged, screaming, from the proverbial ‘caves’ … and transformed to respond creatively to the safety and security requirements of a complex built environment ?

Sustainability … what impact does this intricate, open, dynamic and still evolving concept have … should it have … on the provision of conventional Architectural and Fire Engineering Services ?

‘Green’ … is this marketing ploy helpful … or an annoying obstacle … to effective implementation of Sustainable Development ?

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WBCSD's Vision 2050 Poster (2010)World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD)

Vision 2050: ‘The New Agenda for Business’ (2010)

Click the Link Above to read and/or download a PDF File (3.73 Mb)

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Colour image showing the Tile Page of 'Keeping Track of Our Changing Environment: From Rio to Rio+20 (1992-2012)' ... published in 2011 by the Division of Early Warning and Assessment (DEWA), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Nairobi. Click to enlarge.

Colour image showing the Tile Page of ‘Keeping Track of Our Changing Environment: From Rio to Rio+20 (1992-2012)’ … published in 2011 by the Division of Early Warning and Assessment (DEWA), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Nairobi. Click to enlarge.

2011 – United Nations Environment Programme

Keeping Track of Our Changing Environment: From Rio to Rio+20 (1992-2012)

Click the Link Above to read and/or download a PDF File (4.83 Mb)

Extract from ‘Foreword’ …

This publication serves as a timely update on what has occurred since the Earth Summit of 1992 and is part of the wider Global Environment Outlook-5 (GEO-5) preparations that will lead to the release of the landmark GEO-5 report in May 2012.  It underlines how in just twenty years, the world has changed more than most of us could ever have imagined – geopolitically, economically, socially and environmentally.  Very few individuals outside academic and research communities envisaged the rapid pace of change or foresaw developments such as the phenomenal growth in information and communication technologies, ever-accelerating globalization, private sector investments across the world, and the rapid economic rise of a number of ‘developing’ countries.  Many rapid changes have also taken place in our environment, from the accumulating evidence of climate change and its very visible impacts on our planet, to biodiversity loss and species extinctions, further degradation of land surfaces and the deteriorating quality of oceans.  Certainly, there have been some improvements in the environmental realm, such as the significant reduction in ozone-depleting chemicals and the emergence of renewable energy sources, new investments into which totalled more than $200 thousand million in 2010.  But in too many areas, the environmental dials continue to head into the red.

Achim Steiner, United Nations Under-Secretary-General, and Executive Director, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Nairobi.

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Sustainable Design International Ltd. – Ireland, Italy & Turkey

[ http://www.sustainable-design.ie/ ] 

SDI Practice Philosophy Explained (October 2012)

Click the Link Above to read and/or download a PDF File (670 Kb)

SDI  is a professional, trans-disciplinary and collaborative design, architectural, fire engineering, research, and consultancy practice … specialists in the theory and practical implementation of a Sustainable Human Environment (social – built – virtual – economic).

WE are committed to … the protection of society, the best interests of our clients, and ‘user’ welfare … not just cost-effective compliance with the Minimal Health & Safety Objectives in Legislation & Codes !

Sustainability … continues to fundamentally transform our Architectural, Fire Engineering & Consultancy Practice.

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2012 Sustainable Society Index - World View at a Glance

Colour image showing the Sustainable Society Index World View for 2012 … presenting the world average scores for 21 Sustainability Performance Indicators. The inner circle of the spider’s web represents a score of 1, meaning no sustainability at all, while the outer ring represents a perfect score of 10 or full sustainability. Click to enlarge.

Sustainable Society Foundation – The Netherlands

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Colour image showing the Tile Page of 'Measuring Progress: Environmental Goals & Gaps' ... published in 2012 by the Division of Early Warning and Assessment (DEWA), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Nairobi. Click to enlarge.

Colour image showing the Tile Page of ‘Measuring Progress: Environmental Goals & Gaps’ … published in 2012 by the Division of Early Warning and Assessment (DEWA), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Nairobi. Click to enlarge.

2012 – United Nations Environment Programme

Measuring Progress: Environmental Goals & Gaps

Click the Link Above to read and/or download a PDF File (4.72 Mb)

‘Foreword’ …

If we measured the world’s response to environmental challenges solely by the number of treaties and agreements that have been adopted, then the situation looks impressive.  Over 500 international environmental agreements have been concluded since 1972, the year of the Stockholm Conference and the establishment of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

These include landmark conventions on issues such as trade in endangered species, hazardous wastes, climate change, biological diversity and desertification.  Collectively, these reflect an extraordinary effort to install the policies, aims and desires of countries worldwide to achieve sustainable development.

Yet despite the impressive number of legal texts and many good intentions, real progress in solving the environmental challenges themselves has been much less comprehensive, a point clearly underlined in the Global Environment Outlook-5 (GEO-5), for which this report ‘Measuring Progress: Environmental Goals and Gaps’ and a previous publication ‘Keeping Track of Our Changing Environment: From Rio to Rio+20’ are companion products leading up to Rio+20.

This report outlines findings from a UNEP study that, with support from the Government of Switzerland, has catalogued and analyzed existing ‘Global Environmental Goals’ contained in the international agreements and conventions.  It asks the fundamental question as to why the aims and goals of these policy instruments have often fallen far short of their original ambition and intentions.  One possible reason is that many of the goals are simply not specific enough;  the few goals that are specific and measurable appear to have a much better record of success.

These include goals to phase out lead in gasoline, ozone-depleting substances (ODS) and certain persistent organic pollutants (POP’s), specific Millennium Development Goal targets calling to halve the number of people without access to safe drinking water and improved sanitation, and targets to increase the number and extent of protected areas.  Indeed, even when measurable targets have been set but not actually met, they have usually led to positive change and often to significant change.

The vast majority of goals, however, are found to be ‘aspirational’ in nature.  They lack specific targets, which generate obvious difficulties in measuring progress towards them.  In addition, many aspirational goals are not supported by adequate data that can be used to measure progress, global freshwater quality being one stark example.

It is clear that if agreements and conventions are to achieve their intended purpose, the international community needs to consider specific and measurable goals when designing such treaties, while organizing the required data gathering and putting in place proper tracking systems from the outset.

A set of Sustainable Development Goals, as proposed by the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Sustainability, could be an excellent opportunity and starting point to improve this situation while representing another positive outcome from Rio+20, two decades after the Rio Earth Summit of 1992 and four decades after the Stockholm Conference.

Achim Steiner, United Nations Under-Secretary-General, and Executive Director, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Nairobi.

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Climate Change ?#$#? … 2007 SDI Letter to John Gormley !

2011-01-29:  Some people say that a week is a long time in politics … but, here in Ireland, during the last two weeks … every single day feels like a year !   To the uninformed outside observer, this may have all the appearance of being an elaborate circus … but, we like our politics to be complex, interesting and very frothy.

Briefly … the Irish Green Party has recently removed itself, awkwardly, from the Ruling Coalition Government in this country … and the Green Party Agenda has gone up in smoke … definitely a Climate Changing Greenhouse Gas !   Mr. John Gormley T.D., Leader of the Green Party, has therefore resigned as Minister for the Environment, Heritage & Local Government … and his Green Party departmental colleague, Mr. Ciarán Cuffe T.D., Minister of State with special responsibility for Sustainable Transport, Horticulture, Planning and Heritage at the Departments of the Environment, Transport and Agriculture has also resigned.

With all of Ireland’s current economic woes … this decision by the Green Party has ensured that ‘Climate Change’ is fast dropping off the list of national priorities.

However, as a result of these political shenanigans … the word ‘Green’ has received a severe hammering and will induce a nasty taste in the mouths of many Irish Voters during the next few weeks which lead up to a General Election.  To be honest, I heartily cheer this development … since ‘GREEN’-ness, i.e. a sole and blinkered consideration for the Environmental Aspects of Sustainability is a ‘pre-version’ (fans of the film: ‘Dr. Strangelove’ will understand what I mean) of Sustainable Human & Social Development.  It is also a peculiar quirk of ‘greens’ that they love the environment … but hate people !

As a prelude to what I will say about the proposed enabling legislation for climate change action in Ireland … the 2010 Climate Change Response Bill … I thought that it would be interesting to reveal the contents of a submission I made to Mr. John Gormley back in late 2007.  Concerning his reaction … I wondered how it was possible for anybody to write such a long letter in reply, and say nothing.

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Mr. John Gormley T.D.,                                                                                           2007-12-18.

Minister for the Environment, Heritage & Local Government,

Department of the Environment, Heritage & Local Government (DEHLG),

Custom House – Dublin 1.

Re:  Your Meeting with IIEA on Friday, 7th December 2007

Dear Minister,

At the Meeting with the Institute of International & European Affairs (IIEA), in North Great George’s Street, I raised two points directly with you:

     i)   The Great Difference between ‘Real’ Building Energy Performance and Claimed ‘Theoretical’ Performance.   In a context where the mandatory use of long wave infra-red thermal imagery will not be introduced in the Revised Technical Guidance Document L of the Building Regulations, due to be issued shortly, and there will continue to be No Effective System of Building Control anywhere in the country … no relationship exists between Claimed ‘Theoretical’ Performance and ‘Real’ Performance, such is the poor quality of construction on Irish Building Sites.  The Energy Numbers which continue to be produced by Sustainable Energy Ireland are – almost – pure fantasy.

     ii)  Sourcing of Climate Change Research & Models for Necessary Institutional Reform Must Extend Beyond Britain.   The following is taken from the Irish National Climate Change Strategy 2007-2012 (page 45) …

‘ Ireland has also engaged in an exchange of information on impacts and adaptation activities through the British-Irish Council. This initiative has focused on exchanging data on research projects which have improved the understanding of climate change impacts at a local level.’

I suggested to you that if this were, actually, to be the approach to Research in Ireland … we will be in serious trouble.  Furthermore, far too many people in important organizations (including the IIEA) are only looking across the water for Models of Necessary Institutional Reform.  We must also, in Ireland, look to the rest of Europe and Japan to find the Best Research and the Most Effective Institutional Models.

Please see the enclosed World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) Summary Report: ‘Energy Efficiency in Buildings – Business Realities & Opportunities’ (October 2007), which was presented at an important Paris Conference at the beginning of November, 2007.

This Report looks at what can be achieved in Europe and many other parts of the world – today – using currently available building technologies and systems … IF ‘real’ implementation is taken seriously.  Barriers to progress and costs have also been examined.

In the final analysis, however, a properly resourced Indigenous Research Capability, focused on Irish Conditions and Needs, is vitally necessary to drive ‘Real’ Performance and Innovation in this country.

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Post-Bali Leadership from Ireland (and DEHLG !)

A Kyoto II Instrument will be agreed and ratified before the end of 2012.  The 1997 UNFCCC Kyoto Protocol must now be seen, therefore, as just the beginning of a long-term process which will last until the end of the century.  Some Necessary Direction and a large pinch of Ethical Leadership are urgently required to properly re-position Ireland in this Process.

The following Post-Bali Target Scenario for Ireland is presented for your consideration:

  • Ireland should set 1990 as the Benchmark/Base Year for All Kyoto Greenhouse Gases ;
  • Statements of Measurement and Calculation Uncertainty should be fully transparent (nationally, and at EU level), and made at every stage of Ireland’s Kyoto Compliance ;
  • The EU’s Objective of a 30% Reduction in Greenhouse Gases by 2020, compared to 1990, is the Relevant Short Term Target (refer to Paragraph 31 of the German Presidency Conclusions from the E.U. Council’s Brussels Summit on 8th and 9th March 2007) ;
  • As our ‘Real’ Performance, under Kyoto I, continues to be so weak and disingenuous … we should not expect to receive as generous an intra-EU burden sharing arrangement as before.  Instead, Ireland should adopt the 2020 National Target of a similar 30% Reduction in Greenhouse Gases, compared to 1990 ;
  • Our Contingency Target for 2020 should be a 33% Reduction in Greenhouse Gases, compared to 1990.  When considering ‘real’ performance in any field of human endeavour, it is usual to include a safety factor in any calculations …. in this case, 3% ;
  • Ireland’s Recourse to the Use of Carbon Sinks and Kyoto Mechanisms in meeting the 2020 Contingency Target should be restricted to 1/4 of ‘Real’ Performance …
    • ‘Real’ Performance (no sinks/mechanisms) – minimum 24% Reduction in Greenhouse Gases by 2020, compared to 1990 ;
    • Use of Carbon Sinks and Kyoto Mechanisms – 9% Reduction in Greenhouse Gases by 2020, compared to 1990 (this figure includes the contingency 3%) ;   and
    • As the Construction Sector (when properly identified) should share more of the national burden than, for example, Agriculture …. its Target should be a 40% Reduction in Greenhouse Gases by 2020, compared to 1990.  Remember the range of reductions which were initially proposed at Bali …. 25-40% ?
  • Part 1 of SDI’s Submission for the Irish Construction Sector (IIEA Climate Change Project, Sectors Sub-Group – June 2007) stressed the great need to properly restore the Construction Sector’s Infrastructure.  Otherwise, this Sector will not be able, in reality, to reach any Energy Performance Targets … low or high.  Of course, what will eventually appear on paper, or as a computer print-out, is an entirely different matter !

However, having been able to access information about the recent WBCSD Research Project, and using it as a valid substantiation … it then became possible to deal with the issue of Energy Performance Targets for All Buildings (new, existing and those of historical, architectural and cultural importance) more aggressively.

Enclosed, please also find Part 2 of SDI’s Submission for the Construction Sector (IIEA Climate Change Project, Sectors Sub-Group – November 2007).

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Ireland’s Climate Change Strategy ?

     1.  Ireland’s Current ‘Real’ Situation with Regard to Kyoto (I) Compliance should be clearly understood by the Irish Public.  Using the recently issued European Environment Agency (EEA) Report 5/2007: ‘Greenhouse Gas Emission Trends & Projections in Europe 2007 – Tracking Progress Towards Kyoto Targets’, we have extracted just a few snippets of interesting information (enclosed) …

  • Instead of 1990, Ireland has chosen 1995 as the Base Year for HFC’s, PFC’s & SF6 ;
  • Ireland’s Per Capita greenhouse gas emissions are nearly the worst in the EU-27 ;
  • Ireland’s Per GDP greenhouse gas emissions are far too high ;
  • Ireland’s ‘Real’ Distance-To-Target (no sinks/mechanisms) is very bad.

Ireland is still grimly grasping on to a ‘Business as Usual’ Approach.  This is actually being reinforced by the relevant Institutions of the State, who insist on merely Playing with Numbers … and then publishing Cosmetic Public Relations Brochures for consumption in Ireland and, unfortunately, on the wider European and International Stages.

     2.  The following National Policy/Strategy Documents & Legislation should directly relate to one other, and their implementation should be tightly co-ordinated …

  • National Sustainable Development Strategy ;
  • National Climate Change Strategy ;
  • National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy ;
  • National Spatial Strategy ;
  • National Development Plan ;
  • National Public Procurement Law.

Not only have some of the above not yet even been drafted, but others are unacceptably inadequate, outdated and/or fundamentally flawed.  And the synergies which would normally accrue from co-ordinated implementation are being lost.

     3.  The World Business Council for Sustainable Development has identified Buildings as one of the five main users of energy where ‘megatrends’ are needed to transform global energy efficiency in the immediate short term, and so meet the daunting challenge of Climate Change Adaptation.  They account for 40% of primary energy (primary energy includes the energy required to generate, transmit and distribute electricity, as well as energy directly consumed on site) in most developed countries, and consumption is rising.

Nothing less than a Complete Cultural Shift will be necessary throughout this Sector, beginning with all research and design disciplines and extending right across to any person who works on a construction site or has any part to play in managing, maintaining or servicing a building.

Yet, Irish Construction is not presented as a Coherent Sector anywhere in National or European Greenhouse Gas Databases.

Separate Strategies are urgently required to greatly improve the energy performance of:

  • Existing Buildings … onto which many energy efficiency measures can be successfully grafted, but they will not be cheap ;
  • Buildings of Historical, Architectural or Cultural Importance … the integrity of which must be protected ;   and
  • New Buildings, which must therefore carry the major burden.

     4.  Raising the (General) Awareness of Irish Society regarding Climate Change and Mobilizing People and Organizations for (Effective) Action are two entirely different concepts.  Which concept is informing Strategy Development within the DEHLG ?

A €15 m. Marketing Campaign, spread over 4-5 Years and including the ‘Change’ WebSite (!?!?), will not mobilize anyone … to do anything.

     5.  Your proposals concerning Necessary Building Energy Efficiency Improvements to be included in the Revised Technical Guidance Document L are inadequate.  Part L should be applicable to ALL New Buildings.

It has also been insufficiently emphasized in public discussions/consultations concerning this issue that any proposed Building Energy Efficiency Improvements must take place in a context of stringent control during construction (by a sufficient number of competent Local Authority Building Controllers and/or Independent Technical Controllers) and rigorous post-construction energy performance monitoring (using long wave infra-red thermal imagery, in conjunction with building external fabric air seepage tests).  Follow-up observation of post-occupation building energy performance will also be required.

This is the one – and only – means of …

  • tweaking Computer Software Tools so as to produce more realistic outputs ;   and
  • obtaining reliable construction-related energy performance data and statistics.

Please Note Well:  Without suitable references to the use of long wave infra-red thermal imagery (essential, if working at ambient temperatures – short wave, if working at high temperatures) in Section 5, the Revised TGD L will be absolutely meaningless !!

Because of wasteful patterns of building management and/or use – even in the most energy efficient building – we would also stress that far more attention should be paid to the concept of Intelligent Energy Efficiency Management.

     6.  We strongly urge you, in accordance with the 2007 Bali Action Plan, to rapidly advance development of the National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy, and to ensure that it is properly implemented.

     7.  We call for the creation of an adequately resourced Sustainable Development Commission with the necessary legal mandate, independence and technical expertise to monitor – in an integrated, continual and proactive manner – Ireland’s mitigation and adaptation performance in relation to the adverse effects of climate change.  We also call for a New Social Partnership for Sustainable Development & Climate Change Adaptation.  Addressing Climate Change must be considered an integral element of Sustainable Development Policies.

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At Sustainable Design International … we continue to find, in everyday practice, that the most challenging barriers to Policy Implementation are Institutional – lack of proper horizontal policy integration in Public Authorities, and antiquated approaches to management in Private Organizations.  At every level, the concept of Sustainable Human & Social Development is poorly understood.

Should you have any questions or comments, please contact me at your convenience.

Yours sincerely,

C.J. Walsh,  etc., etc.

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BER Certificates, Energy Efficiency & Climate Change (II)

2009-02-23:  The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) has identified buildings as one of the five main users of energy where ‘megatrends’ are needed to transform global energy efficiency in the immediate short term, and so meet the daunting challenge of Climate Change Adaptation.  They account for 40% of primary energy (primary energy includes the energy required to generate, transmit and distribute electricity, as well as energy directly consumed on site) in most developed countries, and consumption is rising. 

                         … 2007 WBCSD Energy Efficiency in Buildings (EEB) Project

 

 

If you find that you are not responding emotionally to that … please leave your computer immediately and take a cold shower !   When you return, check out how far adrift Ireland is – even on paper – in meeting its legally binding 1997 Kyoto Protocol (UNFCCC) responsibilities.  After 2012, the European Union’s 2020 Targets will be in a different league altogether.

 

Let there be do doubt, therefore, that over the next few years … nothing less than a complete cultural shift will be necessary throughout the European Construction Sector – and this very much includes Ireland – beginning with all research and design disciplines and extending right across to any person who works on a construction site or has any part to play in managing, maintaining or servicing a building.

 

 

 

Burden Sharing in the Built Environment

 

Separate Energy Efficiency Strategies will be required to vastly improve the energy performance of:

         existing buildings … onto which many energy efficiency measures can be successfully grafted … but they will not be cheap, and they will not be 100% effective ;

         buildings of historical, architectural or cultural importance … the integrity of which must be protected ;   and

         new buildings, which must therefore carry the major burden.

 

In addition … if we fully value the Agricultural Industry in Ireland, the burden to be carried by New Buildings may have to be far heavier.

 

 

 

Suggested Building Energy Efficiency Targets in Ireland to 2020

 

From the Beginning of 2012, i.e. after an Essential Transition Period involving extensive re-education and up-skilling, accompanied by ‘attractive’ incentives …

         Require all New Buildings to achieve a Minimum Building Energy Rating (BER) of ‘A1’ … indicating a Primary Energy Consumption less than or equal to 25 kWh/m2/yr.  And require 40% of Primary Energy Consumed to be, directly or indirectly, from Renewable Energy Sources ;

         Require all Existing Buildings to achieve a Minimum Building Energy Rating (BER) of ‘B1’ … indicating a Primary Energy Consumption less than or equal to 100 kWh/m2/yr.  And require 15% of Primary Energy Consumed to be, directly or indirectly, from Renewable Energy Sources.  Retain Incentive Measures to achieve better performance with regard to energy efficiency and/or renewable energies ;

         Require Buildings of Historical, Architectural or Cultural Importance to achieve a Minimum Building Energy Rating (BER) of ‘C1’ … indicating a Primary Energy Consumption less than or equal to 175 kWh/m2/yr.  Retain Incentive Measures to achieve better energy efficiency performance.  No legal requirements or incentives with regard to Renewable Energies should apply to Buildings of Historical, Architectural or Cultural Importance.

 

From the Beginning of 2015

         Require all New Buildings to be ‘Positive Energy Buildings’ (see below) ;

         Require all Existing Buildings to achieve a Minimum Building Energy Rating (BER) of ‘A2’ … indicating a Primary Energy Consumption less than or equal to 50 kWh/m2/yr.  And require a Positive Energy Contribution of 25 kWh/m2/yr to be from renewable Energy Systems installed in the building ;

         Require Buildings of Historical, Architectural or Cultural Importance to achieve  a Minimum Building Energy Rating (BER) of ‘B1’ … indicating a Primary Energy Consumption less than or equal to 100 kWh/m2/yr.  Retain Incentive Measures to achieve better energy efficiency performance.  No legal requirements or incentives with regard to Renewable Energies shall apply to Buildings of Historical, Architectural or Cultural Importance.

 

 

 

‘Effective’ Technical Control of Construction & Post-Occupation Buildings

 

Any proposed Building Energy Efficiency/Conservation and Renewable Energy Improvements must take place in a legal environment of stringent control during construction (by competent Local Authority Building Controllers and/or Independent Technical Controllers) and rigorous post-construction energy performance monitoring (using Long Wave Infra-Red Thermal Imagery, in conjunction with building roof and external wall Air Seepage Tests).  Observation of post-occupation building energy performance will also be necessary.  Introduce mandatory 5-Yearly Energy Surveying of Buildings.

 

 

 

The Paradigm for New Buildings – A ‘Positive Energy’ Return

 

Primary Energy Consumption is less than or equal to 15 kWh/m2/yr.  Renewable Energy & Heating Systems then contribute a reliable quantity of energy, per year, which covers the following:

         the Building’s Primary Energy Consumption ;

         an Energy Efficiency Degradation Factor which takes account of the degradation in energy efficiency normally expected during the life cycle of renewable energy and heating systems installed in the building (the rate of degradation will depend on the quality of maintenance and servicing) … and caused by wasteful patterns of building management and/or use ;

         the energy consumed by Private Transport associated with the building ;

         an Energy Return to an Intelligent District or Regional Grid exceeding, by a whole number multiple determined by reference to local conditions, the total energy consumed by the Building (including its Energy Efficiency Degradation Factor) and any associated Private Transport.

 

Uniquely, this more practical elaboration of the innovative concept of Positive Energy Buildings considers life cycle energy efficiency degradation.

 

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