The huge existing stock of residential units in the GCC region, and the expected growth in residential construction projects, convey different challenges at the time of energy efficiency implementation. New developments require the definition and the enforcement of standards to be included at the design process; while owners and users of existing units require motivation and financial strategies to implement different levels of energy efficiency actions.
A set of actions and requirements have been identified to improve energy efficiency in residential buildings, these include core management actions and specific technical requirements; and are defined for new developments and for already existent residential units.
New developments have the advantage of being able to incorporate energy efficiency features from the design, including improved building techniques, careful material selection and installation of control features that convey into lower energy requirements during the lifetime of the unit. Seven management actions have been defined for the achievement of energy efficiency in new residential units. Most of these actions must be initiated by the administration (or government) and then reach momentum with the developers.
Awareness raising implies communicating to the public the need for being less oil dependent and motivating such transition trough economic incentives and taxes. These steps also require the administration to design and enforce minimum building standards and to support the availability of service providers, suppliers and materials in line with the defined standards. A great example in some countries of the Gulf are the strict requirements for imports, manufacturing and installation of air conditioning.
During the design, construction, operation and maintenance of the units is where the energy efficiency tasks are implemented and where specific adherence to technical requirements is due. The main categories of such requirements are included within the building envelope and building orientation, mechanical and electrical features, HVAC systems and thermal insulation. Minimum standards for these categories have been already defined within the Building Codes of some countries.
For the lifetime usage of the residence, other aspects are to be taken into consideration. Amongst these we find the acquisition of energy efficient home appliances such as refrigeration units, freezers and water heaters. It is also important the exclusive use of LED lighting, the inclusion of daylight control systems and even the consideration of PV systems. Equally important are the maintenance, monitoring and verification tasks to ensure that the design efforts reflect in energy savings during the occupancy of the building.
Existing residential units
Implementation of energy efficiency measures in existing residential units has an added level of complexity due to the cost involved and the additional work required. Core management actions for energy efficiency implementation of existing residential units. It is very important to motivate current owners and users to make the transition pointing out their personal and financial well-being from the modifications.
The odds for energy efficiency implementation increase when financing schemes for capital investment, that will be offset by future savings, are made available and broadly communicated.
Every housing unit differs in performance and needs; therefore, a basic energy audit is required to identify the opportunities for each situation. According to the resources available and the desired outcome, the opportunities are then selected for implementation. Three levels of interventions or technical requirements have been defined and grouped from ease of implementation and lower cost to more costly and efficient options.
The first level interventions include housekeeping, such as behavioral changes for switching off unnecessary lights and appliances, repairs of air leaks and filtration, and basic weatherization of the unit shell. It is important to run maintenance on air conditioning systems and regular cleaning and replacement of filters. Installation and proper setting of thermostats and LED lighting retrofit are other easy but effective measures.
Second level interventions include the replacement of energy inefficient appliances (i.e. refrigerators and freezers) and the installation of at least standard efficiency cooling systems. Building features shall be adjusted for minimum adherence to the building code.
Third level interventions are higher in cost but greater in savings. These include the implementation of a high-performance cooling system which can save up to 35%, and insulation of walls and roofs with close to 25% in energy savings. Other interventions include daylight control systems, and windows and door replacements to add shading features, glazing or adjustment of the dimensions window to wall ratio.