Introduction to the special issue – “sustainable energy efficient building and construction”

International Journal of Energy Sector Management

ISSN: 1750-6220

Article publication date: 28 October 2014



Soetanto, R. (2014), "Introduction to the special issue – “sustainable energy efficient building and construction”", International Journal of Energy Sector Management, Vol. 8 No. 4.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Introduction to the special issue – “sustainable energy efficient building and construction”

Article Type: Guest editorial From: International Journal of Energy Sector Management, Volume 8, Issue 4

Buildings are essentially to provide a living space and support the activities which otherwise, would have been difficult or impossible. The development of buildings shapes the behaviour of the end-users and will have a profound impact on the endeavour to maintain a habitable and comfortable environment. The energy demand in buildings has been identified as the largest contributor to CO2 emission, with knock-on effect on the environmental impacts and global climate change. Rapid population growth and competition for scarce resources have further added critical imperatives to design and construct buildings that can sustain the quality of life and ultimately ensure the long-term survival of human being. The fundamental challenge is how we can create buildings, which require minimum resources to build and maintain, but still meet the requirements of the end-users. Addressing this challenge requires a concerted effort from various stakeholders to consider different aspects, cultural and local context. The sharing of practice and theory development across the globe should be emphasised as the critical step change in our endeavour to build more sustainable buildings, which are energy efficient, comfortable and bring better value for the users.

This special issue represents a collection of papers of the design and construction of sustainable building. The papers were mainly selected from Sustainable Building and Construction Conference at Coventry University on 3-5 July 2013 (SB13@Coventry). The intention was to discover a common platform for the sharing of practice and theory development to accelerate progress in the development of sustainable building. Following the review process, eight papers were accepted and published in this issue. The papers were originated from diverse parts of the world, including USA, Canada, Australia, Hong Kong and the UK, representing different contexts of sustainable building implementation.

Gultekin, Anumba and Leicth acknowledge the role of retrofitting existing building stock to reduce current level of building energy consumption. Due to the inherent characteristics of existing building and usage, retrofitting existing building is complex, and hence the need to develop an integrated design process framework, which includes relevant criteria to evaluate building performance and efficiency of design process for decision-making early in the retrofitting process. A case study is presented to demonstrate deep retrofit process with key considerations of historic preservation and use of high energy efficient technology. The case study explores the interaction of multi-disciplinary parties' involved, decision-making methodology, the use of design tools and methods through series of interviews with participants of design team meeting, and reviews of project documents. The findings highlight the importance of a collaborative decision-making process, supported by integrated system design in deep retrofit project delivery.

Zhang, Pan and Kumaraswamy developed a multi-criteria decision framework for the selection of low carbon building (LCB) measures for office buildings in Hong Kong, based on identified 26 LCB measures and 16 decision criteria. The framework was then applied to an office building project for the selection of the most appropriate LCB measures considering the multiple criteria and their trade-offs. The findings suggest economic criteria are still the most important, which potentially prevents the selection of alternatives with better technical performance. The framework is intended to contribute knowledge on the use of multi-criteria decision-making methods and support the design decision-making of selecting LCB measures for office building projects in Hong Kong. The authors concluded that the findings could also inform LCB design in other hot and humid subtropical urban environments.

Zou and Yang investigated the motivation and behaviour of 504 households in the state of New South Wales, Australia. Their research found that construction cost and government incentive were considered as the major influencing factors on achieving energy efficient residential building development, and the lower bills resulted from the reduced energy and water consumption were considered as the most important benefits. Although many households expressed a high level of awareness and had implemented sustainability measures, costs are still the main determinant of the adoption of the measures. Zou and Yang further suggest three key factors to enhance the take up of sustainability measures; educating occupants on the benefits of sustainable home development, reducing costs of sustainability measures and increasing incentives.

Brown and Gorgolewski conducted post-occupancy evaluation (POE) to assess occupant satisfaction and behaviour that can help or hinder energy efficiency of four leadership in energy and environmental design (LEED) Gold-certified high-rise residential buildings in Toronto. The aim was to identify problems and behaviour patterns that may negate energy efficiency strategies. The finding suggests that some occupants do not have adequate knowledge on the use of an energy efficient technology, which has been installed in their properties. As a consequence, this technology has not been fully utilised to reduce heating energy consumption. This finding emphasises the need for educating the occupants to increase energy efficiency of this type of dwelling. The authors concluded that the outcome of POE can give building designers and operators the information required to make the building to suit the occupant’s perceptions, preferences and capabilities.

Gupta and Barnfield explored the unintended consequences of home improvements on energy use, indoor environmental conditions and occupant behaviour in community-led retrofits across six low carbon communities in the UK, via a systematic mixed methods-based monitoring and evaluation approach on 63 case dwellings. This approach was applied to household-level analysis to provide a holistic understanding of energy use and occupant behaviour through establishing the interrelationships between the physical environment, the technical context and the occupant. This understanding, in the long term, can provide useful information for an effort to achieve a sustained systemic change. While physical and technical improvements have generally brought a reduction of energy use, there are direct unintended consequences which can both beneficial and detrimental to the internal environment conditions and occupants. The finding suggests these can have indirect consequences on other wider areas such as comfort, health, fabric integrity, occupant interactions and use of space. They further emphasise that need for a holistic and contextual approach to retrofit programmes, which should improve awareness and understanding of the occupants by providing advice and support through Low Carbon Community Groups. Similar to Brown and Gorgolewski, the finding suggests that educating occupants would seem to be the key to sustainability effort.

Robertson and Mumovic explore the impact that the relationship between the legislative framework and the pressures within this “socially regulated” network can have on building energy consumption, via interviews and examination of the CarbonBuzz sample of the reported designed and actual building performance. The finding suggests a lack of communication between actors, and between actors and empirical building performance data collection, which prevents the use of POE in the building design process. The key recommendations include the need to address weaknesses in the current legislation and the need to provide a stronger incentive to incorporate energy data feedback into the design process, which could help generate more accurate prediction and lower energy consumption.

Chmutina and Goodier consider decentralised energy (DE) system as one way to contribute to the UK carbon reduction target of 80 per cent by 2050, and demonstrate the complex inter-relationship of non-technical barriers involved in the implementation of four international DE projects. The main non-technical barriers were out-of-date regulations, unreliable partners, public apathy and misinformation, which can determine the success or failure. They further argued that personal and organisational values related to consumption, abundance, trust and control often initiate and then shape the non-technical barriers. They provide few recommendations to overcome these barriers when implementing DE project in the UK context.

Sustainability is often considered an after-thought in the design process, as the analysis of building performance is usually performed after the design and construction documents are produced. Zanni, Soetanto and Ruikar propose a method to incorporate sustainability considerations in the early design stages by developing a process model, which identifies the timing and the required information to help the parties involved in building design to make critical decisions. Using interviews with a number of designers, the process modelling is intended to enhance and complement the commonly adopted Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Plan of Work with a greater level of details to incorporate sustainability considerations. The finding confirms the need for a structured collaborative process to help coordination between multidisciplinary parties by using appropriate technologies to improve sustainability outcomes. The interviews identified “lessons learnt” and “how-to” knowledge from implemented projects. Further work will involve the development and evaluation of a prototype application that supports building information modelling (BIM) Execution Planning for sustainable building design so as to bridge the gap between the existing and the desired design process of BIM-enabled sustainable design.

Three common themes could be identified from this collection of papers, namely, “decision-making”, “occupants” and “retrofit” by which emerging questions for future research could be derived:

RQ1. What are the most effective framework and supporting tool which can facilitate a transparent and objective decision-making process that brings together relevant stakeholders to consider trade-off between criteria for selecting the most optimum alternative?

RQ2. What are the non-financial incentives which can be promoted to alleviate reliance on the financial incentive? How can we tailor strategies that implement incentive and education as an intertwined activity?

RQ3. How can the framework, tool, incentives and education be applied to the retrofitting of existing buildings? What are the barriers to their implementation, and how can they be overcome?

Although these eight papers, by no means, represent the whole body of research in sustainable building, they have illuminated key focussed areas for further endeavour, and hence provided a platform for the sharing of practice and theory development. This special issue is not intended as an end of this endeavour, but, I hope, it has contributed to the journey to address the grand challenge of creating more sustainable building in the future.

Robby Soetanto, Loughborough University