Passive Buildings Could Equal Passive Norway

Reducing the energy used by buildings is certainly a valid target for energy savers and climate change battlers, generally because many buildings are energy inefficient - hence research by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) is looking at how the country’s housing stock can reduce energy demand and carbon emission through the way it is built or by upgrading the structures to a passive standard.

Stefan Pauliuk, a postdoc in the Industrial Ecology Programme at NTNU, highlights that by 2050, 7 million people will live in Norway, compared to the 5 million today. Pauliuk reckons that n spite of this growth, Norwegian energy consumption for housing could be 75% lower than it is today, which would drop carbon emissions from the sector by as much as 70%.

As part of his doctoral dissertation Pauliuk estimated how Norway could reduce its emissions and energy consumption through several different scenarios.

Currently the Norwegian housing sector represents about one-third of the country’s energy consumption, or about 35 terawatt hours out of a total of 112 terawatt hours. As a result, it is indirectly one of largest contributors to Norway’s greenhouse gas emissions.

With fellow student Karin Sjöstrand and supervisor Professor Daniel Beat Müller, Pauliuk estimated how much we could save in energy consumption if the Norwegian housing stock was built according to, or upgraded to, a passive standard. A passive house is one that is designed and built to use very little energy for space heating or cooling.

Pauliuk and his colleagues also included variables in their model such as population growth, technical disadvantages, energy needs, different heating systems, different ways of living and greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental influences during, building, demolition and rehabilitation.

A passive house is designed to not consume much more energy than what the sun, electrical appliances and humans themselves contribute. A house like this works because of passive measures such as insulation, good windows, utilizing solar energy and heat recovery in the ventilation.

Very few houses in Norway today are built according to passive standards, but Pauliuk added: “Tearing down all of our houses is probably not an option. It is not the most energy efficient solution anyway because of the emissions from demolition and building anew. But completely renovating the housing stock is possible. There will of course be cons to this approach. It will require 40 years of commitment and large investments. But considering future prices on carbon emissions and an increased pressure on the energy market it is likely that these measures will be cost efficient.”

The UN’s climate targets mean that global greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced by 80% by 2050. Norway’s goal is to be climate neutral by 2030.

“Norway is one of the richest countries in the world and housing is the easiest sector to change if we are going to reach the climate targets. It is technically possible and economically profitable. If we can’t do this we have no right to accuse other nations of not contributing,” Pauliuk concluded.

Tuesday 22nd April 2014

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