An innovative step towards nearly zero-energy buildings - 31/03/2015

Did you know that buildings account for 40% of Europe’s total primary energy consumption (1)? Clearly, this opens up a lot of possibilities for the continent to reduce its oil, gas or coal consumption. In 2008, the European Union set some ambitious goals for the year 2020. These include a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions — compared to the situation in 1990 — through enhanced energy efficiency. Meanwhile, member states are crystallizing these clear-cut objectives into national regulations. But in planning terms, 2020 is just around the corner...

By then, the EU aims to make all new builds ‘nearly zero-energy buildings’ (nZEB). These buildings should require zero or a very low amount of energy for heating and operating purposes. Most of this energy should come from renewable sources. An ambitious goal. Especially, since these buildings should be twice as energy-efficient as their contemporary counterparts.

But constructing nZEBs is not the only way to cut Europe’s energy consumption. 35% of Europe’s residential building stock is over 50 years old. On average, these buildings consume about 25 litres of fuel per square meter per year; some even up to 60 litres. To put this into perspective: for a new build, this would only be about 4 litres. By retrofitting older buildings and thus improving their energy efficiency, the EU could reduce its total energy consumption by 5 to 6% (2). A big challenge, for sure. But one in which dry construction solutions have a key role to play. And that goes for renovations as well as new builds.


Dry construction as an answer

Building or renovating with blocks and bricks involves the use of wet trades such as cement. On the other hand, dry construction, also known as lightweight construction, does not. Dry structures consists of an insulated timber or steel frame cladded with building boards for the interior and exterior, such as the fibre cement and plaster boards of Etex.

The advantages are countless. Firstly, dry construction ensures that buildings meet today’s standards for exterior wall insulation. Secondly, it involves materials that are easier to dismantle and 100% recyclable. As a result, those buildings are significantly more sustainable than conventional ones.


Testing to innovate faster and offer informed choices

To answer all these market needs, Siniat offers tried and tested lightweight construction systems. That is where ‘Hot Box-Cold Box’ comes in: the new testing equipment developed by Etex’s Siniat R&D centre in France. In a world first, the company installed a full-size test wall in between two climate-controlled rooms, simulating outside and inside climate conditions.

That way, we can measure the energy efficiency, airtightness and humidity behaviour of dry construction systems with plaster- and fibre cement boards in realistic conditions. The Hot Box-Cold Box can reach humidity levels up to 95% (simulating a humid, tropical climate) and artificially recreate temperatures between -30 and +50°C.

Even the smallest details can have a major impact on a high-insulation system’s performance. Hot Box-Cold Box ensures that our dry construction solutions attain an excellent energy performance. An important backbone for our commitment to face today’s and tomorrow’s building challenges.

(2) This data comes from the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). In a recent report, the EIU clearly highlights the energy-saving opportunities in Europe.


Photographer: Christophe Grilhé

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