When building houses that consume less energy, or even produce more energy than they consume, there are a number of variables to take into account. For example, we need to understand the technologies available on the market, their cost and accessibility, as well as the surrounding environment and climate. But there is another aspect that is often overlooked: how do the people using the building behave, from what social and cultural context do they come, and what habits do they have?
For this reason, the new major European project, Cultural-e, coordinated by the energy efficiency experts at Eurac Research, will devote an important component to understanding how to build multi-residential buildings that are user friendly—based, among other criteria, on their social and cultural context. Known as "Plus Energy Buildings", these houses not only produce more energy than they consume, but also have a low environmental impact by reducing their emissions of C02 into the atmosphere.
As part of the project, a map will be created to help make design choices for an energy-plus building. These choices must not only take into account climate zones, but also "cultural" regions. For example, in Mediterranean countries, new or old generation shading systems are everywhere: shutters, curtains or more complex methods for cutting down sunlight and lowering the internal temperature during hot periods. In northern Europe, their presence is scarce, as well as the understanding of how to use them, despite the fact that these systems would be very effective in the summer.
This cultural perspective will be flanked by a more technological one: four new energy-plus buildings will be built. The construction will take place in four different climatic and cultural areas: Italy, France, Germany and Norway. A building management and control system will be tested, which will learn from the users' behaviour and help them to manage different aspects of the home.
Thanks to the data collected, this system will communicate with the charging station for the electric car in the garage, the windows of the house, the photovoltaic system installed on the roof, as well as the heat pump that heats the house, and will give useful advice to tenants. For example, it will suggest if it is better to open the window by analysing the outdoor air pollution, or if it is better to activate the ceiling fan rather than turn on the air conditioning.
In these pilot buildings, other technological solutions will be tested, such as the heating system, windows and doors, and ventilation.
The Cultural-e project is funded by the European Union under the Horizon 2020 programme and will last for five years. Eurac Research is coordinating 17 partners, including research institutions, private companies and building owners, who will pre-test the proposed solutions.