The COVID-19 crisis has brought sharper focus on our buildings, our neighbourhoods and their importance for our health, work and learning. It is no coincidence that the European Commission has placed positive energy districts – the ability of homes and neighbourhoods to save more energy than they use and omit greenhouse gas emissions – at the heart of the Renovation Wave strategy as a key leading action to decarbonise the buildings in Europe. SPENs have the potential to serve as a strategic contribution to achieve climate and energy targets and simultaneously provide environment-friendly, healthy, resilient, secure, safe, and affordable living places and communities.
To help define and achieve the goals of such state-of-the-art energy-efficient neighbourhoods through the design, construction and operation phases, the EU-funded Horizon 2020 project syn.ikia has created a specific methodology to measure their performance and ensure that they deliver.
Evaluating SPENs is not a straightforward task since neighbourhoods and their energy systems are both complex, just as sustainability itself is. Most existing evaluation strategies that measure sustainability share the so-called “multidimensionality principle”, meaning that performance can only be properly assessed when the relations between the different components of a system are considered. For example, the need for balanced targets throughout different dimensions is also provided by the World Energy Council (WEC) as the “energy trilemma” which describes healthy energy systems as a balanced structure between three equally important priorities: energy security, energy equity and environmental sustainability.
Thus, there lies a need for a holistic assessment that looks at the bigger picture, within the wider SPEN process that is able to recognise the capabilities and resources of the various neighbourhoods and adapt to the different contexts and climates in Europe.
The syn.ikia project identifies five categories to address this multidimensional nature, namely, energy and environmental performance, economic performance, indoor environmental quality, social performance, smartness and flexibility.
The Energy and Environmental Performance indicator measures the overall energy and environmental performance, matching factors between load and on-site renewable generation and grid interaction. At the same time, the Economic Performance provides an overview of all capital costs and operational costs. Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) takes care of the thermal and visual comfort, as well as indoor air quality. Very importantly, the Social Performance highlights the importance of equity, community and people. Finally, Smartness and Flexibility measures the degree of digitalisation and controllability of buildings and their engineering systems as well as the ability to shift, modulate or eventually shed the actual energy demand.
Each category of indicators has been designed to impact the different SPEN goals summarised in the 5D: Design, Democracy, Digitalisation, Decentralisation and Decarbonisation.
For each category, several Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are defined with details on the calculation procedure and the rationale of their selection. They have been selected with the objective to be diverse enough and to represent the SPEN goals in a balanced and integrated way.
The framework also provides practical guidelines on how to calculate and implement the KPIs in the different project phases, from design to operation.
Check syn.ikia’s Methodology Framework for Plus Energy Buildings and Neighbourhoods