Buildings’ energy performance, green attributes and real estate prices: methodological perspectives from the European literature
From Firenze University Press Journal: Aestimum
Elena Fregonara, Department of Architecture and Design, Politecnico di Torino
Irene Rubino, Department of Architecture and Design, Politecnico di Torino
Residential buildings’ energy consumption represents one of the most relevant sources of CO2 emissions (Chen and Marmolejo-Duarte, 2019; Manganelli et al., 2019; Wilkinson and Sayce, 2020), and the enhancement of energy efficiency has progressively become of paramount importance, as shown for instance by the 2015 UN Sustainable Development Goal 7 — Affordable and Clean Energy, target 7.3, which recommends doubling the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency by 2030 (United Nations General Assembly, 2015). At the European level, the EU has started to systematically tackle the issue since the early 2000s, with the release of the first Energy Performance of Buildings Directive in 2002 (EPBD-Directive 2002/91/EC). Then, subsequent updates (EPBD-Directive 2010/31/EU; EPBD-Directive 2018/844/EU) and integrations (Commission Delegated Regulation EU, n. 244/2012) aiming at reinforcing and improving the framework have progressively followed. The urgency of the environmental matter, combined with the enduring existence of a certain slowness in the performance of energy interventions, have recently led the European Commission to strengthen its commitment towards the achievement of a real “green” transition: in fact, the Communication present-ed from the Commission to the European Parliament on 10th October 2020 and named “A Renovation Wave for Europe — greening our buildings, creating jobs, improv-ing lives” (European Commission, 2020) puts at its core a faster and deeper energy renovation of buildings.
Moreover, as outlined by the title of the Communication, in the current socio-economic framework — which has been strongly affected and weakened by the Covid-19 pandemic — energy retrofit and green constructions are valued not only as necessary actions for decarbonization but also as economic leverages: this is a statement that thus contributes to possibly increase the market value of these buildings.As underlined by scholars and experts in the field, consumption patterns of domestic energy are a multi-dimensional issue involving variables such as climate zones (Chiesa and Fregonara, 2019; Dell’Anna et al., 2019; Fregonara et al., 2020; Taltavull de La Paz et al., 2019), architectural and technological characteristics of the residential units, households’ income, behavioural, demographic and socio-economic characteristics of inhabitants (Azizi et al., 2019), cost of energy, fuel and combustive agents and so on (Kamal et al., 2019).In this framework, the implementation of measures able to address multiple variables can probably represent the most sustainable solution to reach the de-sired goals; however, it is nonetheless important to underline that the reduction of domestic energy consumption related to heating and cooling needs can be particularly facilitated by: a) retrofit interventions for what concerns the historical and existing housing stock; b) construction of “green” and nearly-zero energy buildings (D’Agostino and Mazzarella, 2019) for what concerns new real estate properties.
Technical interventions that aim to improve buildings’ energy efficiency include, for instance, thermal coating, solar panels, photovoltaic systems and storage cells, use of insulating materials on horizontal, vertical and oblique perimetral surfaces, installation of energy-efficient windows, doors and skylights, heat pumps, floor heating and cooling, combination with domotics and remote-control systems, etc. (Manganelli et al., 2019). Additionally, it must be mentioned that the upscaling of green policies and energy consumption reduction from the building to the urban and district-based scale has started to emerge (Reynolds et al., 2017).With exclusive reference to the building level, the implementation of the technical solutions mentioned above usually implies a considerable initial expenditure by households, and in absence of monetary incentives and financial mechanisms the economic viability of these interventions cannot be taken for granted (Brown et al., 2019). However, it is known that these interventions are associated to different and multiple benefits (Kamal et al., 2019; Kerr et al., 2017), such as an enhanced indoor environment (e.g., in terms of thermal comfort, ventilation, acoustic insulation, aesthetics, etc.), lower CO2 emissions, and also lower heating and cooling running costs during the entire lifecycle of the building. Consequently, it has been advanced that energy efficient houses might thus be desirable by owners, occupants and potential buyers also by an economic point of view.Given these multiple benefits and considering that — especially for what concerns the existing residential stock — sellers might want to recoup previous expenditures, it has frequently been supposed that energy efficient residential units are associated to higher real estate prices. In other words, it has thus been advanced that higher energy efficiency has a positive effect on properties’ values.
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