"We don’t have to build to low standards - solutions for nZEB are available today."
Interview with Oliver Loebel, Speaker at EE & RE Conference and Managing Director of PU Europe
Dear Mr. Loebel,
You will participate as a speaker for the second time at SEE EE& RE Conference. What are the steps that South East European countries have to make for increasing their energy efficiency?
It is my belief that all stakeholders must first and foremost accept energy efficient buildings as a profitable investment in the future and not simply as a cost. Across Europe, buildings consume 61% of all imported gas. In particular for countries with a high energy import dependency, lowering this amount reduces the exposure to supply-side shocks. Furthermore, renovating our building stock creates jobs, reduces health care expenses and generates government income.
Secondly, countries need to develop a long-term strategy for buildings as required by article 4 of the Energy Efficiency Directive. Apart from a clear pathway towards nearly zero energy standards for new buildings, ambitious policy measures are needed to reduce the energy demand of existing buildings by 80% by 2050. Policies must be built on a thorough analysis of the building stock and its savings potential, and ensure that cost-effective measures are implemented as part of a long-term vision for each building. Support schemes (for example low interest loans) should avoid stop-and-go effects. Renovation cycles should be respected in order to reduce the cost of energy efficiency measures.
Thirdly, developers, building owners and tenants need to be informed and architects and builders trained so that they deliver high quality and future-proof solutions.
What will be the highlights of your presentation within the session of PU Europe?
My colleague Tony Ryan will speak about how the EPBD needs to be changed in order to realize the full cost-effective savings potential of our existing buildings. I will present a research project on a new passive house. The building uses PUR/PIR insulation, triple glazing and renewable energy generation systems. We wanted to determine how material and design choices affect energy consumption and indoor climate. I will present the measurement results after one year. What I can already state here is that the house fully meets the expectations in terms of energy use and indoor comfort. The additional costs of building a quasi zero-energy house should be recovered within 5-10 years.
My message to the market is clear. The technologies and design solutions to build nearly zero energy buildings are readily available today. It does not make sense to build to lower standards and upgrade these buildings in ten years time. We should make them future-proof right from the start.
Please present the latest trends in the insulation materials development?
First of all, the trend towards better insulated buildings triggers investment in the development of new or improved materials. The main driver is the will to keep the weight and thickness of the insulation layer stable even if thermal requirements are tightened. This favours the use of high-performance materials. In the case of PUR/PIR, we now see the first insulation products featuring a thermal conductivity below 0.020 W/mK. Compared to traditional products, only half the thickness is needed to achieve the same insulation value. Aerogels, mineral- or PU-based, have equally low Lambda-values.
New mineral, plant- or animal-based insulation materials are being introduced in different forms and will find their applications.
We also witness a trend towards system solutions. PUR/PIR insulation boards increasingly incorporate ancillary building products such as roof-deck foils, counter-battens or rafters. Complete pre-insulated roofing or wall elements are successful in a number of countries. Another example is sandwich panels for roofing applications which already incorporate solar panels. All these developments reduce on-site construction time, exposure to weather and failure risks.
One final remark: Insulation products are no stand-alone products but used in a system. Hence, the detailing and the quality of workmanship in the installation phase are of the utmost importance with regards to achieving air-tight building envelopes and avoiding thermal bridges.