Many companies keep an eye on the future for upcoming trends and changes to industry regulations, and Jada Windows is no different. When Jada looks to the future of window and door trends and energy efficient building regulations, however, there’s no need to guess about what’s coming our way.
Europe has been paving the way and leading by example in terms of energy regulation and building codes for over a decade, and is providing a clear road map of what’s ahead for US regulations and innovation in the very near future.
How Europe is Leading the Way for Energy Efficiency
Energy efficiency is a global priority. While the US is making strides to become more energy efficient, particularly in areas such as building codes, appliance standards, and fuel economy standards for passenger vehicles, it’s progress is still years behind European standards. Europeans use roughly half the energy per capita as Americans (and pay nearly twice as much per Btu).
Building Codes Present a Big Opportunity for Reduced Energy Consumption
The majority of energy consumption goes towards heating and operating homes and buildings. Buildings consume 40% of the world’s energy use, leaving plenty of opportunity for improvements in efficiency and innovation.
Some European building codes have been on the leading edge of innovation and efficiency for a decade and a half, according to the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI).
Germany Setting the Gold Standard for Energy Efficient Policies
The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) releases an International Energy Efficiency Scorecard, which analyzes the energy efficiency policies and performance of 23 of the world’s top energy-consuming countries. Together these countries represent 75% of all the energy consumed on the planet.
The ACEEE 2016 scorecard awarded Germany the #1 highest overall score for national commitment to energy efficiency.
Other top ranking nations included Italy and Japan who tied for second place. The US, who in prior years didn’t even make it to the top ten spots, has made notable improvements to earn a #8 ranking in the most recent scorecard for overall efficiency.
Germany’s national policies and targets are responsible for its standing as a global leader in energy efficiency. Germany’s National Action Plan on Energy Efficiency (NAPE) exceeds the EU’s Energy Efficiency Directive to increase energy efficiency from 2008 levels by 20% by 2020. One of three main areas of focus for Germany’s NAPE is increasing energy efficiency in building stock to achieve a reduction of 80% in primary energy demand in buildings.
While European building standards are focused on energy efficiency and reducing energy consumption, there are considerable voluntary efforts in the private sector which surpass the minimum requirements set by national regulations. Some of the most notable examples are German Passive House standards and the Swiss Minergie label, in which reduction of energy consumption and the use of renewable energy is highly emphasized.
German Passive House Standards
In addition to its aggressive national policies for energy efficiency, Germany has set an impressive goal of all buildings reaching Passive House levels by 2050. Though they currently exceed the national standards, German Passive Houses are gaining popularity in Europe and here in the US, as well.
The Passive House (Passivehaus) design concept is a comprehensive system of receiving and retaining energy. A Passive House is designed to be highly-insulated and air-tight, and is primarily heated by passive solar gain and internal gains from people and equipment.
Passive House buildings, with their minimal energy losses, reduce heating and cooling energy consumption by 80%- 90% compared to conventional structures.
A passive building is designed and built in accordance with these five building principles:
- Employs continuous insulation throughout its entire envelope without any thermal bridging.
- The building envelope is extremely airtight, preventing infiltration of outside air and loss of conditioned air.
- Employs high-performance windows and doors.
- Uses some form of balanced heat- and moisture-recovery ventilation and a minimal space conditioning system.
- Solar gain is managed to exploit the sun's energy for heating purposes in the heating season and to minimize overheating during the cooling season.
Passive building principles can be applied to all building typologies – from single-family homes to multifamily apartment buildings, offices, and skyscrapers.
The first Passive House buildings were designed in Germany in 1990, and since then over a million square meters have received Passive House certification. In North America, the first Passive House to be certified was built in 2006. Currently, there are more than 200 projects that have received Passive House certification in America by the Passive House Institute US.
Swiss Minergie Standards
A similar standard, Minergie, is used in Switzerland. Minergie combines elements of Passive House and LEED in its rigorous approach to energy efficiency and sustainable materials.
Switzerland has one of the world’s highest regulatory building standards. Even so, Minergie buildings consumes around 60% less energy than a conventional Swiss building.
Minergie buildings focus on ten key areas:
- Compact building form
- Airtight construction of the building shell
- Very strong thermal insulation for walls and roof
- Very good windows, with coated multiple glazing
- An energy efficient, draft-free ventilation system that provides a high-quality indoor environment, including plenty of fresh and filtered air
- Water-based heating and cooling featuring chilled/heated floors, walls, beams, and ceilings which results in even and efficient distribution
- Integration of renewable forms of energy such as geothermal, solar, wind, or wood
- Use of waste heat
- Careful selection of materials to avoid indoor and outdoor toxicity and to promote green values
- Efficient household appliances and lighting
Minergie standards are designed to provide building users a higher quality of life as well as higher efficiency. At the same time, builders and architects enjoy freedom in design and selection of materials, as well as freedom regarding the internal and external structure of their building.
Switzerland’s Minergie buildings have shown that buildings can be both sustainable and economically competitive; some buildings have a less than 1% Minergie investment cost premium. The Minergie standard has become a driving force in Swiss energy policy.
Adopting European Innovation in the US
Europe’s more stringent building requirements and eager adoption of innovative building standards such as German Passive House and Swiss Minergie has resulted in new technologies and overall improved building techniques, some of which are far superior to what’s available in the US.
However, European code-inspired products and building materials are making their way stateside for builders, engineers, and architects who are interested in meeting even higher standards for efficiency in buildings than current codes require.
Jada Windows is one such manufacturer who has adopted European technology and innovation at home in the US. We’ve done so with a very strategic European partnership.
Jada has partnered with Secco Sistemi, Italy’s leading producers of integrated door and window systems. For over 60 years, Secco has been providing innovative, high quality fenestration products to the international market. Secco has developed profiles and products with high thermal insulation and performance efficiency that minimize energy consumption. Secco profiles and products are sought after by the leading architecture masters for new building and historical renovations across Europe and the world.
Secco’s products and profiles are tested and certified by the best European labs to meet the most diverse needs in terms of performance, energy efficiency, safety, design and living comfort. Secco profiles and products are always in compliance with Europe’s current regulations, as well as current US building standards.
Jada recognized the highly sophisticated design features and advanced thermal performance of Secco Sistemi profiles, and knew the system would be the perfect integration with our design methodologies and technology.
The Jada Windows and Secco Sistemi partnership ensures that we can manufacture fenestration products that not only meet the most stringent of US building energy code requirements today, but that we’re also ready to meet the energy standards of tomorrow.
In many industries, it can be almost impossible to tell what the future may hold. In our industry, however, the future is clear. The US will continue to update building code standards for energy efficiency, and a certain percentage of US consumers will demand even more innovative energy efficiency solutions that exceed current regulation. By keeping a clear eye on the most effective energy standards in place in Europe, and with our strategic partnership with Secco Sistemi in Italy, we have positioned ourselves to be prepared for the needs of architects, engineers and builders today, tomorrow, and in the future.