Relating environmental performance of buildings to policies for sustainable urban design
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Sustainable urban design has become increasingly important due to the growing environmental impact of cities. There is a need for practical environmental performance assessment tools that can be applied to sustainable urban design. Heating of buildings contribute to 32% of the Dutch national energy consumption and has therefore substantial influence on an urban scale. The Dutch government introduced BENG buildings regulations for newbuild buildings—which are compulsory from 2020—however, the LCA study on BENG buildings from W/E adviseurs (2019) has not yet been related to sustainable urban design policies. This research investigates how to relate LCA results of BENG buildings to policies for sustainable urban design and how to subsequently develop policies for sustainable buildings in the Netherlands. The LCA interpretation compares the environmental impacts of the BENG building’s materials from terraced buildings with a sloping roof, terraced buildings with a flat roof and corner buildings for scenarios with all-electric, heat and gas electricity generation systems. The environmental impacts are presented in annual shadow costs per m2 of gross floor area. The LCA interpretation shows the all-electric buildings have the lowest shadow costs. The results show the gas buildings have 21% to 43% larger environmental impact than the all-electric buildings and the heat buildings have 4% to 16% larger environmental impact than the all-electric buildings depending on the building type. Furthermore the LCA interpretation shows 81% to 147% of the shadow costs differences between electricity generation systems are caused by the building’s number of PV panels. Gas buildings need a larger number of PV panels to accomplish the almost energy-neutral design in accordance with the BENG regulations and are still less sustainable compared to the all-electric and heat buildings regarding the building’s materials, because the larger number of PV panels from gas buildings causes additional environmental impacts from the building’s materials. The gas scenario is less sustainable than the all-electric scenario, because of the technological reason that a heat pump in the all-electric scenario can reach an efficiency of 400%, which is substantially larger compared to a typical 70% to 80% efficiency of a gas boiler in the gas scenario. Therefore, the LCA interpretation—though it is based on the newbuild BENG buildings—supports the policy from the Dutch government that aims for natural-gas free buildings. Two natural-gas free policy options for existing buildings are the transition to the heat scenario or to the all-electric scenario.