QUALICHeCK Booklet #2: Compliance and quality of works for improved energy performance of buildings

QUALICHeCK project final publishable report

The Energy Performance of Buildings Directive of 2002 and its recast in 2010 have been key elements urging member states to drastically reduce the energy use in buildings and pave the route towards Nearly-Zero Energy Buildings. Building’s Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) are probably the most visible symbol showing the way forward as they are meant to inform prospective buyers and tenants to encourage them to invest in energy efficiency in buildings. Nevertheless, insufficient quality assurance measures could jeopardize these policy efforts. More specifically, frequent deviations between actual versus claimed or expected EPC ratings and quality of building works could discredit the overall approach to energy conservation in the building sector.

The IEE QUALICHeCK project’s goal was to avoid this pitfall by raising awareness and triggering initiatives to improve the compliance of Energy Performance Certificates and the quality of buildings works. This goal entailed 3 specific objectives:

To confirm the concern for non-compliant EPCs and quality of buildings works, based on a literature review and 10 specific field studies in 9 countries, each on samples of 25+ buildings.

To show the benefits of existing approaches with the analysis of over 30 examples developed to contain non-compliance of EPCs and building works.

To give the key steps to set up compliance frameworks, including a summary of key issues that should be addressed for a sound foundation of a compliance framework.

This booklet summarises the key findings of QUALICHeCK structured around these 3 specific objectives. Overall, the non-compliance rates or the numerous quality of the works problems reported in QUALICHeCK and outlined herein demonstrate that the concern for the compliance of EPCs and building works has been superficial in many member states. On the other hand, there exist a number of successful approaches to contain non-compliance that could inspire for member states, although these approaches may be limited in scope or impact.

Source book on Guidelines for better enforcement of quality of the works — Final

New buildings, as well as the renovated building stock, should aim not just for good energy performance but also for good quality of the works, as this is a prerequisite for high building energy performance. Various experiences show that there are cases where the quality of the works is a (major) issue of concern. This source book aims to provide guidelines and suggestions for better enforcement of quality of the works.

The source book focuses on three conditions which have to be met in order to achieve agreement with all involved parties in practice:

  • there must be an agreement about the specifications which have to be met by the works,
  • there must be the required knowledge/competence to design and execute the works according to the specifications, and
  • there must be the will and resources to carry out the works according to the specifications.

In order to achieve better enforcement of quality of the works, it is crucial to take the local context into account. As such, the source book provides suggestions regarding choices to be made at country level, whereby societal support is crucial.

QUALICHeCK source book Works

Source Book for improved compliance of Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) of buildings — Final

Practical  experience shows that it is challenging to implement a robust compliance and enforcement framework for Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) for buildings. The source book on EPC compliance aims to provide guidelines and suggestions for achieving such a framework.

This source book focuses on three key parts of such framework: first of all, one needs robust procedures for determining the input data used for calculating the EPC; then it is important to have a clear and robust legal framework for dealing with non-compliances of these input data and/or of the EPC; finally, there has to be implementation in practice.

In order to achieve a successful compliance and enforcement framework, it is crucial to take the local context into account. As such, the source book provides suggestions regarding choices to be made at country level, whereby societal support is crucial.

REPORT | Overview of Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) compliance, and quality issues on the ground – Summary of all collected data

In this report, QUALICHeCK gives an overview of the building energy performance related quality and compliance situation in 9 focus countries: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, France, Greece, Romania, Spain and Sweden.

A review of 31 existing studies dealing with measured performance, reliability of input data, quality of the works and compliance frameworks shows in many of the above areas problematic situations. The 10 field studies conducted in the framework of QUALICHeCK, additionally show important issues in meeting the regulatory requirements. For example:

  • In Austria, 20% of the EPC input data had not been updated between design and completion, resulting in errors in Space Heating Demand assessments in the range of 5-28%.
  • In Estonia, 68% of the buildings investigated did not comply with the regulatory summer comfort requirement.
  • In Greece, the percentages of non-compliance based on building design documentation for the U-values of external insulation and for the solar collector’s area are 56% and 73% respectively.
  • In Romania, recalculation of the EPCs lead to a change in energy class in almost 40% of the sample for the total energy use.
  • In Sweden, the non-compliance rate based on the availability of the EPC alone was found to be 56% on a sample of 100 new houses.

Generally, the data collected and analysed in the framework of QUALICHeCK confirms and quantifies problems with the quality of EPC input data, the quality of building works, as well as with compliance frameworks. However, despite these non-compliance issues, QUALICHeCK also reveals positive ongoing developments in many Member States. Ambitious and sophisticated systems are available in certain Member States (e.g. Austria, Estonia, Sweden), and though they have longer learning curves and are more difficult to implement in practice, they seem capable to lead substantial performance improvements.


QUALICHeCK Booklet: Improving the compliance of Energy Performance Certificates and the quality of building works

Although significant efforts have been undertaken in Member States since about 10-15 years to drastically reduce the energy use in the building sector, improving the compliance of building energy performance assessments and the quality of building works are two aspects that remain critical to generalise Nearly Zero-Energy Buildings (NZEBs) in Europe, both for new and existing buildings.

To address this issue, one objective of the IEE QUALICHeCK consortium was to confirm the concern for energy performance assessment compliance or the quality of the works with field data. To this end, the consortium conducted 10 field studies in 9 countries, each on samples of 25+ buildings. Not surprisingly, significant non-compliance issues were found in many countries. The consortium also confirmed concerns for the quality of building works based on a literature review.

Another objective of QUALICHeCK was to find interesting approaches that had been developed to address these problems.

Based on this information, the consortium proposes in this report an approach to effective compliance frameworks structured around 6 key questions:

  1. What is the scope of the framework?
  2. At which level and on which basis should it be imposed?
  3. On which type of requirement should it be based, and which type of control should it foresee?
  4. What are the procedures to comply with?
  5. What are the procedures for identifying and handling non-compliance?
  6. How will it be implemented in practice?

This booklet gives practical information, including hints and pitfalls, to help framework developers address these key questions. While several aspects are common to EPC compliance and building works, there are also specificities highlighted in specific sections. The report also discusses how to alleviate barriers to innovation which may arise in compliance frameworks. Finally, some hints are given to increase market acceptance of a compliance framework by strengthening societal support. This aspect is addressed in several parts, including in a specific section, given its key influence on the success of compliance approaches.

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REPORT | Quality of the Works (final)

Documented examples of existing situations regarding quality of works

The trend towards Nearly Zero-Energy Buildings (NZEB) implies the correct execution of classical building works on the one hand, and the proper use of specific workforce skills for implementing advanced technologies on the other. Therefore, to reach NZEB targets in practice, it is important to:

  • Agree what is understood by ‘good’ quality of the works (indicators, performance levels, etc.).
  • Guarantee the existence in the market of good products, as well as the existence of all required competences among designers and executors to deliver a good job.
  • Define and guarantee boundary conditions allowing the various players to deliver the agreed quality level in economically viable conditions.

QUALICHeCK focuses on determining the technical boundary conditions for establishing an effective compliance framework that allows quality of the works.

QUALICHeCK has written a report presenting a series of critical situations on the construction site that can result in poor quality. Documented experiences show the probability, the reasons and the impact of incorrect realisation processes at the building sites. The work documents and builds on successful initiatives to overcome site implementation issues that undermine the confidence in actual performance. They include examples in the context of regulatory frameworks, quality labels, self control or quality management procedures/guidelines, and training programmes.

QUALICHeCK WP4 Report 1 Cover 212x300

REPORT | Compliant and Easily Accessible EPC Input Data (final)

How to get compliant and accessible data for the energy rating calculation of a building

The Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) of a building will only be able to serve its purpose if it is considered trustworthy while minimising the risk of non‐compliance of the actual building with the minimum energy performance requirements of the regulations. In doing so, two are the key parameters to be fulfilled:

  1. the input data for the energy performance calculation are compliant, i.e. the data have been obtained in accordance with the definitions and procedures of the applicable legislation, and there is an evidence of this compliance;
  2. the input data for the energy performance calculation are easily accessible, i.e. can be found, seen and used by the relevant experts by taking reasonable time, effort or money.

This QUALICHeCK report presents interesting approaches from different EU countries that could contribute to possible solutions towards compliant and/or easily accessible input data for building energy performance certificates. The approaches include among others:

  • on line databases of product characteristics;
  • procedures for generating reliable data for innovative products;
  • qualification schemes for certain professions;
  • sets of pre‐calculated values for certain technologies/aspects;
  • rules for a consistent announcement of product performances;

whereby the proof that the data is compliant may come e.g. via one or a combination of the following ways:

  • third party control
  • declaration by the product supplier
  • proven competence of experts in charge.

REPORT | Status on the Ground

Overview of existing surveys on energy performance related quality and compliance

Although experience has shown that Nearly Zero Energy Buildings can be realised in practice, many challenges lie ahead of driving the market in this direction. A specific challenge concerns the actual compliance of buildings with the applicable regulations, while another one lies in upgrading the quality of the works to meet NZEB standards.

Several studies and expert statements highlight critical issues on the input data used in Energy Performance Certificates (EPC), while compliance frameworks are typically limited to verifications at building permit stage (not with “as-built” data), therefore allowing for a big range of errors, due to design modifications, poor workmanship etc.

This report is a preliminary collection of information on the status of the quality of EPC input data, the quality of the works and the effectiveness of compliance frameworks in 9 focus countries (Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, France, Greece, Romania, Spain, and Sweden) on 4 technology areas (transmission characteristics, ventilation and airtightness, sustainable summer comfort technologies, and renewables in multi-energy systems).

It identifies common problems in relation to EPC input data, e.g. absence of clear procedures, difficulty to access the EPC input data, mistakes, fraud or lack of competence of persons providing the input data, and gives examples of observed performances and interesting framework schemes.

The report summarises 31 studies addressing specific concerns on performance data from the field, the compliance of the input data, the quality of the works, or the compliance frameworks. Although the situation varies across countries and technologies, this preliminary information confirms the need to further work on schemes to improve the confidence in the compliance of input values and in the quality of the works and describes approaches developed or under development to (or potentially interesting to) improve the situation.

QUALICHeCK Status on the Ground Report 1