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Accelerating Energy renovation solution for Zero Energy buildings and Neighbourhoods

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Combination of new façade panels and software tools simplifies building retrofitting

Retrofitting Europe’s old buildings to make them energy efficient must be done, but it’s difficult. A new set of active and passive insulating panels and installation tools reduces the confusion, vagueness and duplication previously plaguing the retrofitting industry.

Climate Change and Environment icon Climate Change and Environment
Energy icon Energy

Many of Europe’s buildings are old, which also means thermally inefficient. Such buildings waste energy and contribute significantly to global warming. To combat this, the EU has introduced a requirement for nearly zero energy buildings (nZEBs). This means buildings use almost no energy. What little energy such buildings use should come from preferably local renewable sources. Achieving nZEB standards for all existing buildings by the 2050 target would require an increase of the renovation rate from the current 1.2 % to about 2.9 %. This is very ambitious. At minimum, renovations are costly and disturbing for inhabitants, very complicated and inefficient, often involving a lack of clear information and duplicated work.

Novel façade panels and installation tools

Europe needs a simplified approach to retrofitting old buildings, which is what the EU-funded RenoZEB project provides. The project developed a set of insulating active and exterior plug and play panels and an efficient methodology for their installation. The combination proves cheaper, faster and more efficient than current solutions. Taking into account the current shortage of construction workers in Europe combined with a skills shortage, the pre-fabrication of the panel also ensures a high quality and saves labour. “On one hand ,” explains Michele Vavallo, project coordinator, “we have developed several types of new insulating facade units. These are easy to transport and install in a standardised, modular and ‘plug and play’ manner.” The attractive-looking panels come in four types: opaque, window, photovoltaic and insulating. Once applied to a building’s exterior, the panels improve its thermal efficiency and produce energy for the occupants. The plug and play feature simplifies and accelerates installation; all panels fit together like a puzzle. Moreover, all are standardised in size, being suitable for the vast majority of European buildings while also being customisable depending on the specific application needs. “On the other hand,” adds Vavallo, “we have developed a set of software tools that support a collaborative platform, which manage all stages of the retrofitting project from design to building usage. The tools support the installation, simplifying the decision-making to achieve the greatest energy-efficiency gains.” Additionally, the tools show the final building appearance and assist contractors working in the field.

Practical usage and demonstrators

Users will be building owners, architects and contractors. Using the RenoZEB system, all can collaborate at all stages to set collective goals and achieve key performance indicators. The project initiated three virtual demonstrations. These were a large shopping mall in Italy, residential buildings in Bulgaria and an office block in Greece. In addition, the team established two real pilots for residential projects: one in Spain, the other one in Estonia. The pilots were retrofitted using the RenoZEB technology and were tested for final validation before project completion in January 2022. Simulations suggest positive outcomes, but this has yet to be confirmed. Ahead of the final results, the team is working on the scalability obstacle, for implementation after the project ends. The project’s renovation solution is a system simplifying and supporting the retrofitting of old buildings using a set of exterior plug and play panels. Using them saves installation time, improves a buildings’ thermal efficiency meaning operational savings, and producing energy on-site reduced greenhouse emissions.

Keywords

RenoZEB, plug and play façade panels, retrofitting, insulating, old buildings, thermal efficiency, installation tools, nZEB, nearly zero energy buildings

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