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A new online GIS tool is helping designers, researchers and policymakers to understand how different European climates and cultures can influence energy demand in buildings. 

Researchers from RMIT University, Eurac Research and University Ca’ Foscari Venezia have launched an innovative GIS map with a difference: The European Climate and Cultural Atlas for Plus Energy Building Design – the 2CAP-Energy Atlas

The Atlas has been developed as part of the Cultural-E project which is funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program.

The research focuses on Plus Energy Buildings (PEBs) – those which produce a surplus of energy thanks to renewable sources – and aims to show how culture and climate can influence the type and intensity of energy practices. 

Now the project team is inviting feedback from the PEB community on the beta version of the Atlas. 

The new platform, which combines expertise from the social sciences and building engineering, is expected to deliver insights to help building professionals to achieve more successful PEB design. 

By combining knowledge from case studies, relevant building policy and real designer experiences, the team has created an interactive, layered GIS map of Europe to assist building professionals using real data from occupied buildings and Cultural-E’s demo sites.

To develop the Atlas, the researchers also interviewed PEB building designers in four different European Union climatic areas.

RMIT Europe researcher Iván Luque Segura, said through these discussions they collected valuable experiences and insights into PEB practices and identified some of the challenges to achieving a successful PEB design.

“Interestingly, the designers also revealed how cultural habits, such as showering, laundry or cooking practices, socio-economic factors and different climates can impact upon a building’s energy balance,” he said.

The Atlas combines this first-hand knowledge with scientific data through analytical maps, data layers and interactive graphics – allowing the user to cross-reference and compare different content and parameters, such as climate patterns and cultural behaviours. 

“Some people expected less of an energy demand for household cooling in the milder parts of Europe, but in this aspect, we can see through the maps that there is actually an upward trend,” Luque Segura said.

“This could be a reflection on what people in northern or central Europe perceive to be a comfortable indoor environment – this kind of insight can influence changes in building design to avoid overheating, for example, and therefore the need to waste energy.” 

Available for free (under registration), the online tool is expected to see market uptake by 2030 and impact upon future building design. 

Professor Ralph Horne from RMIT University’s college of design and social context, hopes the Atlas becomes a useful guide for the PEB community by providing resources to allow designers to integrate household and practice diversity to come up with different sets of conditions according to specific profiles.

The PEB community is invited to visit the Atlas website to experience the tool first-hand and provide their valuable feedback to the Cultural-E research team to support the continuous development of the initiative.

Cultural-E is coordinated by Eurac Research, a research centre headquartered in Bozen, Italy. The consortium includes 17 participants, such as local authorities, SMEs, technology providers, designers, European universities, construction companies and European umbrella associations.

 

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