The project: introduction
Buildings (both domestic and non-domestic) in the EU are responsible for approximately 40% of the primary energy use. This makes buildings the largest 'energy-using-sector' in the Union. From the energy point of view, one can reduce consumption: by using building products that are sustainable (e.g. have little embodied energy), by designing and constructing buildings that use as little energy as possible with respect to heating, cooling, ventilation, etc. and by maintaining and operating buildings without wasting energy.
From the perspective of the occupant of a building, the ideal situation is an indoor environment that satisfies all occupants (i.e. they have no complaints) and does not unnecessarily increase the risk or severity of illness or injury. According to the European Directive 89/106/EWG "Construction work must be designed and built in such a way that it will not be a threat to the hygiene or health of the occupants or neighbours". According to the WHO "Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity". An unhealthy indoor environment will lead to a decrease in productivity of employees and will lead to an increase in sick leave. The problem we are confronted with now is that the health situation of occupants is far from the ideal situation. One can create a healthier indoor environment by source control (i.e. reducing the emissions of indoor pollution sources), by ventilation (removing or diluting pollutants i.e. reducing the exposure to pollution sources) and by maintaining comfortable physical conditions (e.g. temperature, humidity and light).
It becomes clear that there may be a potential conflict between strategies to reduce energy use and to create healthy buildings. For example, a particular material/product might have a low embodied energy but cause unhealthy emissions, or the ventilation rate may be reduced to save energy but the level of pollutant concentrations may increase above a certain threshold and increase exposure. While there is a strong logic to improving energy performance by attention to healthy indoor environments, more needs to be done to realise the potential. Action needs to be directed at both improving guidance on how to realise the potential, and making a convincing case for the building industry to make changes. This project contributes to both, by providing guidance that is technically sound, while being linked with easily understood examples of good design.
To be able to reach the commitment by the European Commission in the context of the Kyoto agreement of 8% reduction of CO2 and other greenhouse gases emission by the year 2008-2012, it is certainly important to tackle all opportunities of rational use of energy in buildings. The underlying proposal brings the additional advantage of promoting "healthy" indoor environments, which is where most European people spend more than 90% of their lives.
The final goal of the project is to provide the means to increase the number of energy efficient buildings that are at the same time healthy, thus decreasing the energy use by buildings and consequently resulting in a reduction of CO2 emission from primary energy used for ventilation.
A set of performance criteria for healthy and energy-efficient buildings will be developed for direct input in CEN-activities in the context of the pre-requisite 5 of the directive of 106/89 on Health and Comfort. These criteria will be tested in existing buildings by performing a multi-disciplinary study in 180 office buildings and multi-apartment buildings, of which approximately 75% have been designed to be energy efficient. This will be carried out in nine European countries, and will be followed by a detailed study in at least 32 of the investigated buildings. The health and energy efficiency status of the 180 buildings will be determined. Protocols to test the performance of a building and to improve a building will be developed. The results will be made available on an interactive web-site for the public. This web-site will have the possibility for non-participants to make their own forecast of how healthy and energy-efficient their building is, by comparison with the database of collected data on the 180 buildings, and how to improve the performance. Additionally, international and national dissemination activities will be performed.