Building energy efficiency and health: the new regulations back up our bio-passive construction model

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Single family house aerothermal system in San Cugat (Barcelona).

Late 2019 saw the publication of the amendments to the Spanish Technical Building Code (CTE in its Spanish initials), aimed at adapting it to EU energy efficiency directives. They refer in particular to Directive 2010/31/EU on near zero energy buildings, designed to reduce the real estate stock carbon emissions that are responsible for climate change.

One of the provisions states that as of 31st December 2020, all buildings must comply with Near Zero Energy (nZEB) standards. In other words, they are required to have a “very high energy efficiency performance, where a large proportion of the near zero or very low level of energy required must come from renewable sources”.

This means that the new regulation, which will come into force in June, will require new constructions to have lower energy needs, a greater percentage of which must be generated from renewable sources. Ensuring a building meets nZEB standards will therefore require action on its thermal envelope, focusing on transmittance, solar control and permeability conditions. Furthermore, guaranteeing thermal comfort with very low energy consumption will require installations that include renewable energies.

Mechanical ventilation system

Here at House Habitat, we already comply with the new energy saving levels the amended regulations will demand. Our bio-passive construction model, based on Passivhaus standards, amply exceeded the 2006 CTE and will continue to go beyond and above the provisions of the 2020 edition. The buildings we construct all receive an ‘A’ energy efficiency rating, and regularly include aerothermal, geothermal or solar energy systems which, together with mechanical ventilation with heat recovery, provide the low levels of energy required for their heating or cooling.

As for indoor building health, for the first time ever, the amended CTE includes measures for protection against exposure to radon gas, the second cause of lung cancer (after smoking). This gas enters buildings from the subsoil via cracks or uncontrolled air entry points. Airtightness, which is a particular priority at House Habitat, is essential in order to prevent this from happening. Mechanical ventilation systems capable of constantly renewing the air and which are a feature of all the homes we build, also guarantee that this gas and other harmful particles are expelled from the atmosphere.

House taped to improve airtightness

We are convinced that the increasingly strict legal requirements regarding building interior health are a cause for celebration. As with energy savings, our protocols in this area also exceed the requirements of the official regulations. Indeed, we can guarantee near zero energy consumption thanks to our combined use of the Passivhaus system and use of natural, sustainable and healthy materials, which together provide spaces that generate wellness, with wood as a structural element.

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