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Competitions and awards for exemplary ultra-low-energy new buildings or retrofits can be an important means of rewarding frontrunners in energy-efficient design and construction techniques. The publicity gained by developers and architects as well as owners of award-winning buildings means value added in terms of profit and prestige – this increases their motivation to strive for a very low-energy building to win an award.
The demonstration and the publicity will raise awareness and confidence on the demand side about the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of such new or refurbished buildings.
Competitions and awards for exemplary ultra-low-energy buildings can be an important means of motivating frontrunners in energy-efficient design and construction techniques. It starts with a call for proposals. Each project then passes through a selection process, which mainly contains criteria development, technical analysis, and selection. The best projects will be declared with honours and their energy performance will be verified afterwards (Brussel Environment 2010). Investors and architects directly benefit from competitions and awards, from which they gain the publicity as well as potential profits and prestige.
The demonstration of the low energy buildings and the publicity will raise awareness and confidence on the demand side about the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of such buildings. They are important and convincing material to be used in professional training, information and motivation programmes, online databases for good practice buildings, and other information tools.
Competitions and awards for exemplary ultra-low-energy buildings work more effectively when being accompanied by financing incentives and information campaigns that promote the competitions. In general, competitions and awards are cost-effective, given the innovations they activate and the high spill-over effects afforded.
Competitions and awards for exemplary ultra-low-energy buildings aim at rewarding frontrunners in energy-efficient design and construction techniques and thus motivating their innovation for very low-energy buildings.
Competitions and awards for exemplary ultra-low-energy buildings can be implemented at national, multi-national, regional or local level.
These measures have already been implemented in many countries globally. For example, since 2007, the Brussels Capital Region has organised the “exemplary buildings“ competition in order to promote the building projects with a high environmental performance and to demonstrate the technical and economical feasibility of low energy buildings in Brussels. In China, a Green Building Innovative Award was set up by the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development of China (MOHURD) in 2004, which aims at promoting exemplary projects, technology and products for green building, as well as organizations and individuals who make valuable contributions in this field. It also paved the way for green building development in China.
Competitions and awards for exemplary ultra-low-energy buildings can cover the residential, industry, and service (i.e. commercial as well as public) sector.
Buildings are focused on by way of competitions and awards for exemplary ultra-low-energy buildings. It is the strategic approach to an integrated design and optimisation of energy efficiency and, maybe, renewable energies that competitions and awards promote.
Developers, investors and architects directly benefit from competitions and awards for exemplary ultra-low-energy buildings, from which they gain the publicity as well as potential profits and prestige.
Actors on the supply side of buildings and equipment markets (component manufacturers, manufacturers and importers of products which are sold to end-users, system suppliers, engineering consultants for energy) as well as ESCOs and energy consultants indirectly benefit from competitions and awards for exemplary ultra-low-energy buildings as it can increase the demand for their products and services and may enhance their publicity when the buildings, to which they are applying their products and services, receive an award.
Competitions and awards for exemplary ultra-low-energy buildings address investors’ and architects’ lack of interest in/ motivation for energy-efficiency improvement, for example, due to high transaction costs or hassle/inconvenience (in combination with) time constraints. The underlying reason is that competitions and awards can enhance investors’ and architects’ publicity and thus address their incentives.
Competitions and awards for exemplary ultra-low-energy buildings can be more effective when being accompanied by following two policies and measures:
Financial incentives: financial support for designing and constructing the exemplary demonstration buildings can further motivate the participation of the target group (Brussel Environment 2010). There is a link here between competitions and awards and the funding for research, development and demonstration (RD&D) projects (see also the bigEE file on this type of policy).
Provision of information: information about the competition should be well disseminated in order to attract more applicants.
Capacity building and provision of information: The demonstration buildings that received the awards, but maybe also other participating buildings, provide important and convincing material to be used in professional training, information and motivation programmes, online databases for good practice buildings, and other information tools.
Agencies or other actors responsible for implementation
An agency/actor, who co-ordinates the whole competition/award activities, should be in place. In addition, an expert group needs to be set up for the technical analysis of the proposed buildings and selection of the projects.
A funding scheme is not necessary. However, financial support for designing and constructing the exemplary buildings can further motivate the participation of the target group.
Competitions and award programmes work by starting with a call for proposals. Each project then passes through a selection process, which mainly contains criteria development, technical analysis, and selection. The technical analysis is sometimes conducted by external experts. The best projects will be declared with honours and their energy performance will be verified afterwards (Brussel Environment 2010).
Performance requirements in terms of an energy saving target and other environmental targets can be set in the tender.
Co-operation of countries
Countries with similar building cultures and technologies and/or climatic conditions can jointly launch competitions or awards for energy-efficient buildings. They can also co-operate by exchanging award criteria for such competitions.
Awarded projects, need to have their energy consumption information collected over a certain time period in order to verify their energy performance as specified in the original proposal (Brussel Environment 2010).
Establishment of an evaluation system for such awards is easy in principle.
Energy savings can be evaluated by comparing the energy consumption, as designed and as measured, of the entrant buildings to the competition that are finally constructed with the energy consumption they would have had in accordance with the existing legal minimum energy performance standards (MEPS). Economic benefits and costs can be evaluated by comparing the actual costs with those of a reference building and by comparing the difference to the energy cost savings achieved. The specifications for the competition must then only require provision of this data.
The criteria for awards can also include other sustainable components, such as resource efficiency or health aspects in order to promote these factors too.
Competitions may suffer from either low participation or low levels of innovation.
High publicity and strong organisers who can credibly promise strong publicity for award winners will create confidence among potential entrants and this is likely to increase participation. Financial incentives for award winners may enhance both participation and innovation levels. Both will also depend on appropriate award criteria: too strong energy efficiency requirements may deter potential participants, while too weak requirements will reduce the need to innovate.
Potential achievable energy savings vary between projects that participate in the competition and award program depending on the criteria specified. For example, in the “Effizienzhaus – Energieeffizienz und gute Architektur (Efficient building-energy efficiency and outstanding architecture)” competition in 2009, the final space and water heating energy demand of the multi-family building winners was 10 to 30 kWh/m2/yr, with a primary energy demand of 26 to 37 kWh/m2/yr, which is 56 % lower than required by law (DENA 2009). The winners of the EU GreenBuilding Award 2012 for new buildings achieved an energy saving of 94 to 3,411MWh and reduced energy consumption by 55-100% (Europa 18 April 2012). In general, since energy savings is among the most important criteria for the exemplary ultra-low-energy buildings, the investors and architects have incentives to make the energy saving as high as possible. However, since the number of participants, and especially the award winners, will be limited, the direct energy savings are likely to be smaller than for most other energy efficiency policies. Nevertheless, in case of broad dissemination of the results, their inclusion in capacity building, information, and motivation, and particularly, if there are financial incentives for replication, the indirect contribution made by award competitions to energy savings may be quite high.
Expected costs for the government cover the possible financial support as the award for each project and the promotion of the competition. The costs burdened by the investors are the rest of the incremental costs for specific energy efficient options that are not covered by the possible financial award, which can vary between different projects and in different competition programmes.
Since the potential energy savings and expected costs depend on the projects as well as the competition and award program, it is difficult to standardise the expected net benefits. In general, the net benefits should be high with such a competition and award scheme, given innovations it activates and high spill-over effects.
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