Visibility and Public Support in Brussels
Visibility and Public Support in Brussels
Active promotion of the benefits of energy-efficient construction is a priority for the Brussels regional authorities. One way of doing so is by raising the profile of the “Exemplary Buildings” program. Brussels Environment features the Exemplary Building winners in articles, project files, seminars, the ‘Green Brussels, Inspiring Architecture’ book, and other publications. Visits are organized for the public during or after the execution of the project. (1)
Furthermore, Brussels Environment has developed AlterClim, which is a software that helps determine whether rooms with a certain number of characteristics can avoid air conditioning (partially or fully). Available through the Brussels Environment website, AlterClim contains the results of 50 000 dynamic simulations, as well as substantial technical and educational documentation in the form of sheets that can be read online or printed. (2)
Some other concrete initiatives of the Brussels-Capital Region to stimulate and increase the visibility of low-energy construction are described below.
Ecodynamic Company Label
Created in 1999, the Ecodynamic Company label is an initiative of Brussels Environment. (3) Its goal is to encourage companies and organizations to actively commit to improving their environmental performance (especially energy consumption, waste management, and the efficient use of raw materials). The target groups are all enterprises and organizations (large and small, private and public, regardless of their area of expertise).
Specifically, the Ecodynamic Company label is a formal token of recognition of good environmental practices. It is awarded for a period of three years, and it gives companies one to three stars, depending on their performance. To receive a label, an organization must operate within the Brussels-Capital Region. The first awarded companies were in 2000. The label also promotes setting up a system of environmental management in the context of the Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) or ISO 14001. Obtaining an Ecodynamic Company label requires going through the following steps:
- Formally announcing candidacy for a label by signing the “Eco-dynamic company charter.” The signature obliges the company to commit to the 27 principles of eco-management, outlined in the charter.
- Receiving free guidance from a Brussels Environment consultant during the process of implementation of the 27 principles;
- Submitting a formal application for the label to Brussels Environment, no later than 2 years after having signed the charter. The application includes an environmental analysis, and an environmental program.
- Welcoming an on-site visit from the Brussels Environment jury, which will make a field assessment of the company before making a decision on whether to grant the label.
Companies that obtain the label are featured extensively in Brussels Environment publications, and on their website. In addition, the enterprise is allowed to affix an Ecodynamic Company label to all its communications and marketing materials. For those organizations that obtain the label, EMAS registration and ISO 14001 registration becomes easier.
== “Be Passive” magazine == (4)
Since November 2009, PMP and PHP have been issuing “Be Passive,” a quarterly magazine dedicated entirely to low-energy building, and the passive standard in particular. The target audience is: architects, the public authorities, building societies, regional development agencies, engineers, construction manufacturers, real estate actors and all others involved in construction. The magazine aims to serve as a “one-stop shopping” centre for all that relates to energy-efficient building. The goal is to present the information in a clear, concise, and jargon-free way so as to be comprehensible to individuals without technical training. The website (free details and free issues) has more than 20 000 downloads. The magazine is distributed to all target audiences without exception (approximately 15 000).
Specifically, the magazine offers detailed accounts of prominent low-energy construction projects, as well as interviews with important individuals (public authorities, architects, construction sector leaders, building owners and residents). The “Exemplary Building” winners receive extensive coverage. In addition, the editors include updates on the current Belgian legislation related to low-energy building. “Be Passive” is an initiative financed by PMP/PHP and a group of private stakeholders. 4 issues have been supported by Belgian SPF environnement.
== The “Ice Challenge” Special Event == (5)
The Ice Challenge event is organized by Passiefhuis Platform (PHP) in Brussels and Antwerp. It aims to sensitize the public and illustrate first-hand the benefits of good building insulation. The event consists of placing two 1,3 tone blocks of ice in two separate makeshift constructions – one very well insulated, the other one – not. The two constructions are placed side by side on a major downtown street for everyone to see. The goal is thus to illustrate how much faster the ice in the non-insulated construction melts during the summer months. Observers have to guess how much ice would be left in each shack after 40 days. For example, during the 2007 Ice Challenge, more than 450,000 kilograms of ice still remained in the well-insulated cabin, whereas the ice in the non-insulated one had completely melted in just 11 days. But the main objective of the event is promotional: throughout the guessing competition, participants obtain useful tips energy saving and house insulation tips.
Passiefhuis-Platform (PHP) and Plateforme Maison Passive (PMP) jointly organize an annual Passive House Fair: a building technology forum that showcases the latest developments in energy-efficient construction. The Fair targets construction professionals and the general public alike. Among the activities of the happening are open houses, free readings, information and planning advice, and meetings with the professional members of PMP/ PHP (6). In 2012, the Fair took place during the second weekend of September. 120 companies from the building sector participated. (7)
In addition, PHP and PMP also organize an annual Passive House Symposium, the next one of which will take place on October 5, 2012 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Brussels. A more specialized event than the Passive House Fair, the Symposium is targeted specifically to construction professionals. More than 30 prominent Belgian and international speakers give lectures on a variety of aspects concerning passive construction, and share their experiences with the audience. Participation in the Passive House Symposium is mandatory for all professionals who wish to stay abreast of the latest developments in passive construction. (8) The lead themes of the 2012 symposium are: 10 “passive” years, zero energy, neighbourhood developments, school renovations, energy-efficient cooling and heating, major renovations, dweller experiences, shared architecture, and passive schools. (9)
Since the bulk of the project and the standardisation of the compulsory passive standard, it was time to communicate these advances widely to the public. One of the first public advertising initiatives is the Are you normal? campaign (www.areyounormal.be). The campaign was carried out during the 2012 Passive House fair. It included a flashmob, moving advertising (in rollers) along the main pedestrian popular zone in Brussels (where more than 30 000 people pass by every day), T-shirts, and a quiz on the event website, among others. The goal of the campaign was to show that nowadays, a passive house is mainstream - the only thing special about it is the inhabitant.
Participation in International Projects
Active participation in international projects is a key contributor to the success of the Brussels-Capital Region. This way, the Region gains not only visibility, but also access to international funds to deepen and improve low-energy building policies and practices.
One such international funding mechanism is the Intelligent Energy-Europe programme (IEE). An initiative of the European Commission, IEE is part of a broader EU policy to promote energy efficiency. It offers funding for organizations working to improve energy sustainability. Renewable energy, energy-efficient buildings, industry, consumer products, and transport are among the areas eligible for project funding. Each year, IEE disburses funds through calls for proposals. All EU Member States, as well as Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Croatia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) are eligible to apply. The IEE budget is € 730 million, running through 2013. (10)
In 2011, IEE funded the PassREg project, where the Brussels-Capital Region features prominently. Representatives of ten EU countries (both from municipalities and non-profit organizations), join forces in PassREg. In Belgium, the two key NGO partners that collaborate in the framework of RassREg are Passiefhuis-Platform (PHP) and Plateforme Maison Passive (PMP). The Passive House Institute Darmstadt, Germany acts as the overall project coordinator.
The overarching objective of PassREg is to spearhead energy-efficient construction throughout the EU. The promotion of passive standards (i.e. a maximum heating and cooling requirements of 15 kWh/(m²a) in all new buildings) is a core activity of the project. (11) To do so, PassREg employs a methodology of best practice sharing. Emphasis is placed on participants that are either front runner regions (having already surpassed the existing EU directives for efficient energy building), or aspiring regions (those striving to become front runners). The idea is to showcase the front runners’ success, to collect and systematize lessons learned, and to apply the models in aspiring regions and beyond. (12)
The five specific objectives of the PassREg project are: (13)
- To increase awareness of the passive house standard, especially amongst key policy and industry actors;
- To identify the success factors that propelled some regions to a leading position in matters of energy-efficient construction. This includes deriving a list of “solutions,” and analyzing whether they apply to other countries and regions;
- To build the capacity for high-quality professional development for construction professionals;
- To stimulate market demand for sustainable construction, products, and technologies;
- To increase the number of low-energy buildings in the partner regions.
The Brussels-Capital Region features as a front runner in the PassReg project. In May 2012, work started to analyze the key factors that facilitate Brussels’ rapid progress in low-energy building. The second step in the analysis will be to determine if any of these conditions exist in other regions. If so, the positive experiences and lessons learned in Brussels will serve to stimulate energy-efficient construction in less-advanced regions. At the same time, the Brussels regional authorities will also benefit - participation in this project allows for careful process tracing, strategy evaluation and analysis of mistakes for future reference.
The Brussels-Capital Region is also a partner of the Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (FP7). The FP7 is the main financing framework of the EU for Research & Development. (14) The FP7 runs from 2007 to 2013, and disburses funds through annual calls for proposals. Energy and the environment are among the 10 major themes financed by the calls for proposals. The specific subfields that are directly related to the passive construction standard and can be financed through FP7 are: (15)
- Renewable electricity generation
- Renewables for heating and cooling
- CO2 capture and storage technologies for zero emission power generation
- Energy efficiency and savings.
Independent researchers, university research centres and businesses are all eligible to apply for FP7 funds. Accepted applications are usually those filed by a consortium of different types of applicants from several EU member states (participation from third countries is also encouraged).
In this process, Brussels-Capital Region maintains a consulting role. The authorities offer assistance with FP7 applications to all potential candidates. The Brussels Enterprise Agency (BEA) is the designated National Contact Point for FP7. Each year, BEA organizes information seminars to help candidates make the most of their application. During the seminars, experts with detailed knowledge of FP7 projects share their experience, and advice candidates on how to improve their application. The last one of the information seminars (before the expiration of FP7 in 2013) was held on September 6, 2012 in Brussels. (16)
In addition to participation in EU-funded projects, the Brussels-Capital Region takes part in other international initiatives through the work of key NGOs. For instance, Passiefhuis-Platform (PHP) maintains active relations with the principal passive house organizations in Europe. PHP actively promotes Sustainable Energy-Europe 2005-2008, a campaign initiative of the European Commission to raise awareness of passive building. (17) PHP is also a member of Informationsgemelnschaft Passivhaus. (18)
(2) See “2007 Energy Efficiency Action Plan for the Brussels-Capital Region,” pg. 41, http://www.medemip.eu
(6) “Passiefhuis-Platform vzw: The reflex for passive and low energy architecture.” Flyer provided by Irena Kondratenko, Research Projects Coordinator, Passiefhuis-Platform. August 23, 2012.
(9) http://www.bepassive.be/viewer/12/fr/ pg. 11.
(18) “Passiefhuis-Platform vzw: The reflex for passive and low energy architecture.” Flyer provided by Irena Kondratenko, Research Projects Coordinator, Passiefhuis-Platform. August 23, 2012.