ESEIA Lecture Series - Ninth Lecture Delivered on 18 April 2024

ESEIA Lecture Series: Ninth Lecture Explores Advanced Tools for Planning and Management of Climate Neutral Buildings

On 18 April 2024, the ninth lecture in the ESEIA Lecture Series offered the opportunity for 32 participants from eight countries to explore the importance of carbon neutrality in the building sector and the role advanced tools can play in achieving climate targets.

Titled Advanced Tools for Planning and Management of Climate Neutral Buildings, the ninth lecture was held online from 19:00 to 21:00 CEST, featuring the Building Energy Senior Researcher at the International Energy Research Centre (IERC) Carlos Ochoa as a guest lecturer. Organised by ESEIA in cooperation with Graz University of Technology (TU Graz) and supported by the Styrian Government, this lecture was the first of the four lectures planned for this year in the hybrid series Sustainable Energy Innovation Systems for Climate Neutrality, which started in 2022.

The session started with opening remarks delivered by the Vice-Rector for Infrastructure and Sustainability at TU Graz, Michael Monsberger and the ESEIA Director Brigitte Hasewend, who welcomed the participants, highlighted the importance of taking action to address pressing challenges and the role of initiatives such as the ESEIA Lecture Series in fostering friendly and scientifically informed dialogue on solutions to achieve climate neutrality. Then, the Professor of Sustainable Construction at TU Graz Alexander Passer, who chaired the event, also emphasised the topic’s relevance (in particular, the improvement of the energy performance of buildings within the EU) and introduced the panel of speakers:

  • Carlos Ochoa, Building Energy Senior Researcher at the International Energy Research Centre (IERC), who presented current and advanced tools for planning and management of buildings with a view on climate targets;
  • Steffen Robbi, CEO of Digital Findet Stadt GmbH, who shared his insights on sustainability and circular refurbishment and digitalisation in the construction sector;
  • Salvatore Carlucci, tenured Full Professor at the Energy, Environment, and Water Research Centre (EEWRC) of The Cyprus Institute, who shed light on building performance optimisation tools in net zero energy building design.

Buildings are responsible for around 35% of the EU’s energy-related greenhouse gas emissions, the main reason why bringing this number down benefits both the people and the planet. After briefly explaining why we need climate-neutral buildings, Carlos Ochoa dived deeper into the tools that can help achieve climate neutrality for building design (software programs that help create, modify and optimise a building design) and building and facilities management (software programs that help keep track of different assets in a building). First, he provided examples of tools for planning and management of buildings, among which CAD, BIM and BMS, pointing out that sometimes the same tools are used in both situations and present some limitations, such as lack of interaction with other tools due to vendor issues and compatibility. He also noted that increased sustainability reporting requirements will result in the demand and adoption of newer and more sophisticated tools by businesses.

Then, he continued his presentation with the advanced tools for planning and management of buildings with a view on climate targets. The news tools, he said, need to include environmental planning and reporting from the earliest phases, which can be accomplished by combining existing features – from real-time information and outcomes of several actions to maintenance schedules and financial management – with environmental calculations for energy use, lifecycle and targets to be met. Examples of tools Autodesk Insight and Trimble Sefaira for planning and IES Live and Demo Consultants RE Suite for facility management.

In addition to highlighting the features and the obstacles to wider implementation of advanced tools, Carlos Ochoa shared actionable strategies to reduce emissions, such as improved visualisations and monitoring, increased use of digital twins and AI and documentation of building use. He concluded his presentation by saying that while current tools are often fragmented and not always effective, the adoption of advanced tools is hindered by their complexity or reliance on organisational plans and stronger regulation. However, there are opportunities to increase interaction with the occupants, optimise operation and asset reuse and enhance environmental reporting, thereby driving smart building management.

Following Carlos Ochoa’s lecture, Steffen Robbi provided a glimpse into the principles of circular economy in the construction industry, stressing the importance of rethinking the design process and reducing the use of resources to achieve sustainable development. After a brief overview of the technical evaluation criteria, he explained what the circular refurbishment construction process entails and offered examples of digital tools to support the data collection, analysis and documentation.  

Then, Salvatore Carlucci took the opportunity to share his insights on why we need to discuss Building Performance Optimization (BPO) as an advanced tool to support building design. After briefly introducing the concept of optimization, he explained the difference between single-objective, multi-objective and scalarized optimization. He also presented a research project aimed at setting a procedure to support the designers in identifying the optimal design choices that minimise summer and winter discomfort for realising a comfortable net-zero energy building.

In the Q&A session that followed the presentation, it became evident that a paradigm shift in how we design, construct, manage and maintain our buildings is essential in addressing the challenges and achieving climate neutrality in the built environment. Moreover, the speakers agreed that addressing the embodied carbon emissions related to building materials and construction processes plays an important role in reducing the overall carbon footprint in the construction industry and achieving truly net-zero buildings. Additionally, they pointed out that the clean energy transition is a collective effort that requires everyone’s contribution to ensure that technology and systems work harmoniously to create a sustainable future.

Thank you to the speakers, the participants, the chair Alexander Passer, the host Michael Monsberger, and all those who have contributed to the success of this event. We look forward to seeing you again soon!

32 participants from eight countries from the EU and AU attended the ninth ESEIA Lecture Series event.

Upcoming lecture: How to Ensure Sustainable Land-use while enhancing Renewable Energy Production in Europe

The tenth lecture in this series, focusing on the intensive land use in Europe and its impacts on biodiversity and human well-being, will be delivered on 23 May 2024. During the lecture, we will address the EU renaturing strategy along with the climate effects of an increased land-take trend in Europe, partly caused by increased renewable energy production, as well as the role of organic soils for storing large quantities of carbon.

The lecture is free and open to all interested stakeholders. Get to know the speakers and register here to attend!

More information about the ESEIA Lecture Series Sustainable Energy Innovation Systems for Climate Neutrality is available here.