IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Working Group III: Mitigation of Climate Change Operation, maintenance and performance benchmarking

Once a building has been commissioned, there is a need to maintain its operating efficiency. A variety of methods to monitor and evaluate performance and diagnose problems are currently under development (Brambley et al., 2005). Post-occupancy evaluation (POE) is a useful complement to ongoing monitoring of equipment and is also useful for ensuring that the building operates efficiently. A UK study of recently constructed buildings found that the use of POE identified widespread energy wastage (Bordass et al., 2001a; Bordass et al., 2001b).

Cogeneration and District Heating/Cooling

Buildings are usually part of a larger community. If the heating, cooling and electricity needs of a larger collection of buildings can be linked together in an integrated system without major distribution losses, then significant savings in primary energy use are possible – beyond what can be achieved by optimising the design of a single building. Community-scale energy systems also offer significant new opportunities for the use of renewable energy. Key elements of an integrated system can include: 1) district heating networks for the collection of waste or surplus heat and solar thermal energy from dispersed sources and its delivery to where it is needed; 2) district cooling networks for the delivery of chilled water for cooling individual buildings; 3) central production of steam and/or hot water in combination with the generation of electricity (cogeneration) and central production of cold water; 4) production of electricity through photovoltaic panels mounted on or integrated into the building fabric; 5) diurnal storage of heat and coldness produced during off-peak hours or using excess wind-generated electricity; and 6) seasonal underground storage of summer heat and winter coldness.

District heating (DH) is widely used in regions with large fractions of multi-family buildings, providing as much as 60% of heating and hot water energy needs for 70% of the families in Eastern European countries and Russia (OECD/IEA, 2004). While district heating can have major environmental benefits over other sources of heat, including lower specific GHG emissions, systems in these countries suffer from the legacies of past mismanagement and are often obsolete, inefficient and expensive to operate (Lampietti and Meyer, 2003, Ürge-Vorsatz et al., 2006). Making DH more efficient could save 350 million tonnes of CO2 emissions in these countries annually, accompanied by significant social, economic and political benefits (OECD/IEA, 2004).

The greatest potential improvement in the efficiency of district heating systems is to convert them to cogeneration systems that involve the simultaneous production of electricity and useful heat. For cogeneration to provide an improvement in efficiency, a use has to be found for the waste heat. Centralized production of heat in a district heat system can be more efficient than on-site boilers or furnaces even in the absence of cogeneration and in spite of distribution losses, if a district-heating network is used with heat pumps to upgrade and distribute heat from scattered sources. Examples include waste heat from sewage in Tokyo (Yoshikawa, 1997) and Gothenberg, Sweden (Balmér, 1997) and low-grade geothermal heat in Tianjin, China, that is left over after higher-temperature heat has been used for heating and hot water purposes (Zhao et al., 2003). Waste heat from incineration has been used, particularly in northern Europe.

Chilled water supplied to a district-cooling network can be produced through trigeneration (the simultaneous production of electricity, heat and chilled water), or it can be produced through a centralized chilling plant independent of power generation. District cooling provides an alternative to separate chillers and cooling towers in multi-unit residential buildings that would otherwise use inefficient small air conditioners. In spite of the added costs of pipes and heat exchangers in district heating and cooling networks, the total capital cost can be less than the total cost of heating and cooling units in individual buildings, (Harvey, 2006, Chapter 15). Adequate control systems are critical to the energy-efficient operation of both district cooling and central (building-level) cooling systems.

District heating and cooling systems, especially when combined with some form of thermal energy storage, make it more economically and technically feasible to use renewable sources of energy for heating and cooling. Solar-assisted district heating systems with storage can be designed such that solar energy provides 30 to 95% of total annual heating and hot water requirements under German conditions (Lindenberger et al., 2000). Sweden has been able to switch a large fraction of its building heating energy requirements to biomass energy (plantation forestry) for its district heating systems (Swedish Energy Agency, 2004).