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Energy-based renovation of historic buildings: Eurac Research manages global programme
International Energy Agency begins large-scale research project and entrusts South Tyrol research centre with its management. The focus will be on new refurbishment methods using solar energy

Historic buildings constitute a quarter of all building stock in Europe. They are the architectural flagship of many cities. Yet they consume enormous amounts of energy, renovation is costly and as a result many of these buildings are left to decay. The International Energy Agency (IEA) has now declared the preservation of this cultural heritage its global aim. On their behalf, eleven countries, amongst them New Zealand and the USA, formed a working group to identify in the first instance the potential of solar energy for heating and cooling historic buildings and to develop renovation solutions that will respect the historic character of the building. The IEA entrusted the management of this large-scale venture to Italy, which will be represented by the South Tyrol research centre Eurac Research.

The energy consumption of historic buildings can be reduced by up to 75% through the judicious use of specific renovation techniques. This has been demonstrated by research work carried out at Eurac Research, for example from the case study of the historic Waaghaus in Bozen-Bolzano. The research centre is now coordinating a large international programme for the energy-efficient refurbishment of historic buildings. This will be a task which not only demands a wealth of technological know-how, as the newly-appointed manager of this enormous new venture, Alexandra Troi, explains: “On the one hand we are the link between the commissioning committee of the International Energy Agency and the Research Group which is comprised of experts from 11 countries. And at the same time it is our duty to oversee the work of the various specialists – amongst them architects, curators of monuments, building companies, engineers, plant technicians – and to plan and coordinate their activities.” The energy experts from Eurac Research were able to draw above all on their own research work to suggest solutions for interior insulation and present prototypes for energy-efficient windows. In addition they will set up a database of exemplary renovation work carried out on historic buildings all over the world. Whilst focusing on solar energy, the renovation proposals have to satisfy various other criteria: the refurbishment elements have to be matched in terms of colour and design to the particular building, they must be architecturally integrated and installed as unobtrusively as possible, or even totally invisibly; they must be reversible, i.e. it must be possible to remove them at any time without leaving any visible traces.
A further aim is the passive use of sunlight, for example by clever exploitation of daylight, and the general concern is to lower the energy requirement of historic buildings – through innovative insulation and ventilation measures – and to cover the energy shortfall with renewable energy sources.
The programme, with its full name “Task 59 Deep Retrofit of Historic Buildings towards lowest possible energy demand and CO2 emissions”, will run for four years. Eurac Research has been the point of contact for the International Energy Agency before, and Wolfram Sparber stresses this when he says: ”Historic buildings are an important part of our cultural heritage, especially in Italy. It is therefore very gratifying that Italy has the honour of coordinating this large-scale project. In the past 30 years, the IEA has twice commissioned Italy to manage an international programme and on both occasions, we from Eurac Research were the leading research partner.”



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