Digitalization of the Housing Industry: The Legal Foundations for Smart Buildings

Digitalization of the Housing Industry: The Legal Foundations for Smart Buildings

In Germany, as well as in Europe generally, we are currently witnessing an increase in digitalization across nearly all sectors of society. In the short and medium term, digitalization will lead to greater interconnectivity in all areas of life – a phenomenon also commonly termed the “Internet of Things.” Presently, the energy industry is primarily focusing its digitalization efforts on the introduction of intelligent metering systems. Over the long term, digitalization in combination with intelligent sensor technology will lead to the development of intelligent cities. As the most crucial element of every city and boasting 40% of final energy consumption, the buildings sector is one of the most energy-hungry in the whole of Europe. In addition to refurbishment and renovation work on buildings, energy savings and efficiency can also be achieved through intelligent measurement and control technology. The EU has acknowledged these innovations and reacted by revising its Energy Performance of Buildings Directive.

Smart buildings: Legal developments paving the way

On 17 April 2018, the European Parliament passed a revision to the Directive on the Energy Performance of Buildings (EU Directive 2010/31/EU). It mainly seeks to ensure buildings will become more intelligent and more energy-efficient over time. The new requirements essentially cover three main areas:

  • IT systems for building automation and control should be installed and used to monitor consumer energy consumption, and to connect buildings to an upstream intelligent network (Smart Grid). To a certain extent, this requirement is similar to the one regulating the conversion of conventional houses into smart buildings.
  • The development of a charging infrastructure for electric cars in residential and non-residential buildings should be advanced vigorously. This measure makes sense in that vehicles do remain parked most of the time (either at the workplace or at home) and are able to contribute to energy management in buildings via their batteries.
  • Looking to the future, the third and most interesting requirement is the introduction of a “smartness indicator” for buildings. Similar to the energy certificates already in place for buildings, the smartness indicator will provide information on the “intelligence” of a building.

In addition to Directive 2010/31/EU, a number of further directives are currently being amended. One of them is the Energy Efficiency Directive 2012/27/EU. The current directive proposal significantly strengthens the importance of sub-metering by requiring the use of remotely readable meters and heating cost allocators for logging the consumption of cooling and heating energy. Similar to the introduction of intelligent measurement systems for recording energy consumption, sensors, actuators and a comprehensive ICT infrastructure are slated to be implemented in buildings more frequently in the future.

Directive 2010/31/EU must be part of and implemented in national law within 20 months. In Germany, various laws and ordinances regulating buildings (EnEG, EnEV, EEWärmeG) are currently being merged under the Law on the Conservation of Energy and the Use of Renewable Energy for Heating and Refrigeration Supply in Buildings (GEG, Gesetz zur Einsparung von Energie und zur Nutzung Erneuerbarer Energien zur Wärme- und Kälteversorgung in Gebäuden). The GEG is also currently being revised and is likely to enter effect by the end of 2018. Modifications to the GEG will likely take place once the revised EU Directive 2010/31/EU has been passed. That would mark the first step toward the introduction of intelligent buildings in Germany.

Therefore, housing companies should already be taking these changes into consideration today when renovating existing buildings and planning new ones. A fundamental strategy on the development of a smart building infrastructure is needed to that end. Moreover, the requirements on building actuators and sensors – as well as building management systems as the central “brain” of this infrastructure – must be defined in the corresponding concepts. When it comes to creating concepts in these fields, Q_PERIOR is an experienced partner for the real estate industry.

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