ENVIRONMENT: Cyprus edging toward zero-energy buildings

10 mins read

While reports have Cyprus failing to meet the majority of its EU 2020 and 2030 environmental targets by large margins, it would appear that the country is performing better in reducing energy consumption of buildings.

Buildings are responsible for 40% of energy consumption in the European Union and 30% in Cyprus.

With the sector growing, energy needs are to increase. Consequently, reducing energy consumption and the use of renewable energy sources in the building sector are important measures needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Cyprus has incorporated into its national law an EU Directive (2010/31 / EU) which aims to improve the energy performance of buildings while taking into account the external climatic conditions and indoor climate requirements.

A series of laws imposed on the construction of new buildings combined with the installation of photovoltaic systems in homes, business and government buildings have significantly contributed to Cyprus coming closer to meeting its goals set regarding energy consumed by buildings says an ETEK representative.

Eliza Vassiliou, general secretary of ETEK technical chamber, said experts believe that Cyprus has done much to make buildings near zero-energy.

She estimates energy consumption by buildings has dropped by 20%.

After a series of laws and amendments introduced by parliament, new buildings built after 31 December 2018 will have to be issued an Energy Performance Certificate classifying them as Energy efficiency class B.

This means that buildings will have to be built with materials insulating the interior while being obliged to generate part of their energy needs from renewable energy sources. Housing units built after the end of 2018 should be producing up to 25%, blocks of flats 3% and other building types 7%.

Come 2020, however, criteria for constructors to obtain a building license will become even tougher, with all buildings having to be classified as class A.

This entails high-performance thermal insulation (walls, ceilings, windows, exposed floors) and very low heating requirements.

Also, to have a primary energy consumption of under 100 kWh per m2 on an annual basis, to ensure the minimum shading on the building windows and produce at least 25% of their primary energy consumption with the use of RES.

“Cyprus has come a long way in reducing energy consumption. A house built today consumes almost half the energy a similar structure built in the 1990s does. However, we have a long road in front of us before reaching the ultimate goal which is to turn every building in the country to a near-zero-energy building,” said Vasiliou.

She said that the government will have to enhance incentive packages given to people to upgrade their homes as costs are prohibitive for an average household.

“The house will need to be insulated with work needed on walls, windows and roof, while a photovoltaic system will probably be needed. The cost for such a project could reach EUR 30,000,” said Vasiliou noting that some 300,000 households are in need of such an upgrade.

She suggested that one of the things the government could do is seek further financing from the EU, noting that in the past two years, Cyprus received some EUR 73 mln for such schemes.

Smart design

There are, however, more ways than one to make a building near zero-energy.

Talking to the Financial Mirror architect Yiannis Armeftis, part of the group of architects who worked on the design of one of Limassol’s high-rises, the Oval, said there are innovative ways to bring down energy needs.

“Instead of relying on solar panels and more energy efficient air conditioning systems, building constructors may turn to more traditional, but also innovative ways of bringing down energy needs.

While designing the Oval we knew that there would be no room for solar panels. So, we designed the building to face north and south without windows opening to the east and west,” said Armeftis.

He explained that with the building’s design, they were able to keep Cyprus’ burning sun out. Armeftis added that the team went a step further, installing a system which cools the building using the underground water deposits.

A pipe-system installed at the foundation of the building pumps cool water through the whole building keeping it cool and thus bringing down the electricity bill for air conditioning.

“Other solutions people could turn to are insulation and planting on their roofs. Sand and plantation will act as natural insulation for a house. Good insulation of a home could bring electricity costs down by 70%,” he said.

Meanwhile, the government has a long way to go to bring government buildings up to speed with the EU directive said Green MP Charalampos Theopemptou.

While the state is regulating new buildings with legislation and energy performance certificates, it appears to have fallen behind on its own obligations towards the EU and targets set for 2020.

Theopemptou said that while the state had an obligation to refurbish a 3% of state buildings every year since 2014, the state has done very little to keep in line.

“Unfortunately, all the state has done is to renovate 2-3 buildings a few years back. Essentially what was done, was the replacement of the air-conditioning systems and some insulation work.”

He explained that upgrading government buildings should have been a priority as the state would contribute to the country meeting its overall environmental goals, but unfortunately little has been done.

Theopemptou reminded that students at schools are complaining about not having cooling systems in classrooms but the Ministry of Education said the state cannot afford the estimated EUR 10 mln bill for air conditioning.

The Green MP said the government could have upgraded schools with insulation works and other innovative measures without needing to install any other air-cooling systems.

“That way the state would have met its target to upgrade 3% of its buildings every year.”

Theopemptou commented that municipalities do not have a master plan and a strategy regarding the construction of towers, especially in coastal areas.

He also added that there are innovative ways of upgrading the energy efficiency of buildings.

“There are companies who will come in and do an evaluation of the building’s energy needs and then do the work needed for upgrading the building for free. Their payment will be equal to the amount saved on energy in the first year of the building’s operation after the upgrade.”

A source from the Energy Ministry told the Financial Mirror that while a lot has been done to bring Cyprus up to speed with EU directives regarding energy saving through more energy efficient buildings, the state has also been focusing on upgrading state buildings.

The Ministry is currently assessing how much energy goes into state-owned buildings and are drawing up plans to bring needs down to near zero.

“Public works are completely renovating state buildings in Paphos and installing photovoltaic systems. Then, of course, there is the installation of a photovoltaic system at the House of Representatives, also financed by the state,” the source said.

The source said the government is running funding programmes for citizens who would like to upgrade their homes.

“The size of the grant may not be big, but the Ministry is trying to accommodate as many applicants as possible. Our aim is to contribute to having a near-zero-energy society.”