Reframing energy performance requirements in building standards

David Hawkey

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


It is difficult to find dissent from the proposition that it is desirable to reduce the energy required to keep buildings warm. However, translating this proposition into material investment in retrofitting existing buildings and raising minimum standards for new buildings is challenging given both the range of social interests impacted by implementation (building owners, occupants, utility companies, future generations, developers, etc.) and the fact that the financial benefits of energy saving are predicated on a coun- terfactual analysis and accrue over many years. Regulation of the energy performance of buildings, both newly constructed and renovated, is thus an area with much scope for contestation. In an attempt to establish a com- mon approach, the European Commission (as part of the 2010 recast of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive) required member states to cal- culate “cost optimal” building standards, meaning the standards for which the combined (discounted) costs of energy efficiency measures and resulting energy demand over a thirty year period would be minimised. As costs of measures and energy vary across states, as do climatic conditions and the characteristics of the building stock, the Commissions methodology allowed that the “cost optimal” standard would be different in different states. In this paper I discuss the reports submitted by three states (the UK, Denmark and Germany) to the Commission, and argue that, far from the methodology es- tablishing a common baseline it afforded considerable flexibility for states to present quite different analyses. To the extent these analyses justified build- ing standards already in place they reflect the (temporarily settled) outcome of negotiation among various interests, but in their selection of appropriate calculative techniques they also illustrate broader energy policy paradigms in each country. In particular I argue that the meaning (and not just the pa- rameters) of “cost optimality” in the three countries is linked to dominant policy visions of the role of markets in determining outcomes and the range of supply-side futures entertained by policymakers.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 19 May 2016
EventDEMAND Conference: What energy is for: the making and dynamics of demand - Lancaster University, Lancaster, United Kingdom
Duration: 13 Apr 201615 Apr 2016


ConferenceDEMAND Conference: What energy is for: the making and dynamics of demand
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • Energy efficiency
  • EU Energy Performance of Buildings Directive
  • economic sociology


Dive into the research topics of 'Reframing energy performance requirements in building standards'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this