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Energy efficient buildings: UNECE guidelines aim to help close gap between technologies, ‎standards and implementation

Improving energy efficiency is one of the most cost-effective options for meeting growing energy demand, ensuring more rational use of energy, contributing to a better environment and to energy security in most countries, and securing economic well-being and improved quality of life.

Today, buildings account for approximately one third of total final energy consumption and almost 40 per cent of carbon dioxide emissions. Facilitating the uptake of energy efficiency in buildings thus presents an opportunity to address a range of Sustainable Development Goals, helping to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy; building resilient infrastructure; making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable; ensuring sustainable consumption and production patterns; and taking action to combat climate change and its impacts.

Advanced technical solutions to improve buildings’ energy efficiency exist, and normally their deployment requires standards, supporting measures and enforcement mechanisms, as well as technical capacity, improved consumer knowledge, and integrally – a holistic and consistent policy approach. The existing building energy standards in the UNECE region vary from voluntary guidelines to mandatory requirements, which apply to different building types, and their development is typically a complex decision-making process that involves variety of stakeholders. At the same time, standards that are stringent for one country may be ineffective in another, depending on climatic conditions, occupant behaviour, existing building stock, and construction practices.

A new report “Promoting Energy Efficiency Standards and Technologies to Enhance Energy Efficiency in Buildings” prepared by UNECE and informed by its Framework Guidelines for Energy Efficiency Standards in Buildings, maps the existing energy efficiency standards, technologies and practices in buildings in its 56 member States.

The report shows that while many UNECE member States have technical requirements in place in their building energy codes, some countries are yet to implement requirements on heating, cooling, lighting, and ventilation. There are also inconsistencies on the choice and design of the assessment methodology that hinder the implementation of energy performance certificates, which is also constrained by lack of enforcement, training and monitoring mechanisms. The report stresses limited knowledge, incompleteness of statistics and lack of studies on assessing energy performance gaps. This suggests that either calculation methods are flawed, or enforcement is not being undertaken sufficiently rigorously, or that designers and builders fail to deliver on the intended outcome. Closing the gap between design intent and regulatory requirement is likely to become an important issue over the next decade if countries are to deliver on climate and environmental targets related to buildings.

To support this objective, the report includes:
  • analysis of comprehensiveness, stringency, and technical requirements of building energy codes and energy performance certificates;

  • analysis of enforcement mechanisms;

  • assessment of energy-efficient technologies in buildings in relation to the existing standards;

  • analysis of actual (as opposed to perceived) prevalence of specific energy-efficient technologies for buildings, and of public policy interventions supporting their deployment;

  • identified best practices on adopting, implementing and enforcing energy efficiency standards and technologies for buildings.

The publication suggests a set of priority actions, intended to strengthen governments’ ongoing efforts to improve the energy efficiency of their building sector.

The publication is available at:

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