The minimum energy performance criteria for the block has been set to achieve early compliance with the EU's Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD); a Directive ratified by all Member States and set to enter into force in 2018.
It is our position that by tackling this standard earlier, and demonstrating that compliance can be achieved in the spirit of law under market conditions, Finland can reach a higher level of performance overall. It is important that this be done before political negotiations over implementation begin, as this will undoubtedly lead to weakening of the Directive.
The Directive is written to allow for a fair amount of latitude for Member States to determine how to develop implementation plans. Member states can thus shape energy and regulations to achieve lesser or greater building performance while still complying the law.
For this reason, and to establish a shared understanding between the design and client team, it was important that a clear project interpretation of the EPBD's intent be formulated.
The recast EPBD approved in May 2010 requires that:
- As of 31 December 2020 new buildings in the EU will have to consume 'nearly zero' energy and the energy will be 'to a very large extent' from renewable sources.
- Public authorities that own or occupy a new building should set an example by building, buying or renting such 'nearly zero energy building' as of 31 December 2018.
The definition of “near zero energy” has not been quantified in the EPBD. It is left to individual governments to define their own target figures for energy performance. The same is true for the renewable energy provision.
Although this has not yet been carried out for Finland, Sitra provided the design team with a set of figures which set the primary energy targets for the residential and office buildings. These figures represent highly agressive, but achievable target.
Renewable energy will be produce on site to the degree that it is possible given the climate, availability of technologies appropriate to the context, and incentives in place or under development by the government.
District Heat: challenge & opportunity
As Helsingin Energia's (municipally owned utility) district heating supply is largely the product of fossil fuels, a key strategic decision in the block's design was whether or not to connect to the district heat system from which nearly 99% of all buildings in Helsinki receive hot water for heating and domestic use.
In the early phases, a disconnected block-level energy generation system was pursued to test its technical and economic viability. While this was proven, there were many drawbacks, such as daily deliveries of biofuels to the site. Partially connected solutions were also proven and were even economically attractive.
Even more attractive than these solutions was to find a way for Helsingin Energia to develop a product that would be carbon neutral and available to other customers in Helsinki's energy market. Through negotiations this was done, and we are happy to announce a new, verifiable bio-energy product that will displace fossil fuels that would be utilized for the block. More importantly, other consumers will now have the opportunity to significantly impact their carbon footprint.