Sustainable usage practices for sustainable buildings  

Sustainable usage practices for sustainable buildings  

An EU-funded project involving partners from Belgium, France and the United Kingdom has secured a one-year extension to build awareness about how to optimally use highly energy-efficient buildings. The first stage of the

The REGAIN project started in 2008, with backing from the EU INTERREG North-West Europe programme, and ended in December 2012. It involved the construction of demonstration buildings at Créalys Business Park in Gembloux, Belgium; the Artois-Flandres Industrial Park in Douvrin, France; the Lanarkshire Technology Park, Scotland; and at a commercial site in Ebbw Vale, Wales.

The buildings use local materials and techniques, are energy efficient and cut down on carbon dioxide emissions. The techniques applied include maximum use of natural light, and of natural heating and cooling, and use of waste materials for insulation. Energy and emissions savings are significant - in Scotland, the project refurbished a complex of buildings from the 1950s and 1970s and achieved a 42% energy saving.

As the project progressed, however, the partners saw that the behaviour of users of the buildings would have to be addressed. Olivier Granville of partner the Bureau économique de la Province de Namur, Belgium, noted that, for example, in the Belgian demonstration building, “if you open the internal shutters on summer evenings, the cold night air flows and cools down the offices and because they are well insulated, they stay cool all day long. We ask the occupier to remember to open the window at night and close it in the morning.”

This, he adds, is “just common sense. But in multi-tenant buildings you need to have discipline and you need to lay down some rules. All our partners say the same thing: living in a passive building means behaving responsibly.”

The project extension, from December 2013 to December 2014, is therefore developing a code for proper use of the buildings. This will be illustrated by pictograms to remind tenants what they should do - such as opening and closing windows at the right time. Each pictogram will have a QR code which, when scanned by a smartphone, will play a video demonstrating the optimum behaviour. A competition targeted at design students is underway to develop the pictograms, and a choice will be made in September of the designer who will finalise the pictograms. Results will be announced at a final project seminar in November 2014.