Sustainability in Energy and Buildings: Future Perspectives and Challenges

A special issue of Applied Sciences (ISSN 2076-3417). This special issue belongs to the section "Energy Science and Technology".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 20 May 2024 | Viewed by 12645

Special Issue Editors

Geology and Engineering Department, University G. d’Annunzio of Chieti-Pescara, 42-65127 Pescara, Italy
Interests: climate change; building sustainability; nZEB design; renewable energies; cultural heritage preservation; building acoustics
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals
Geology and Engineering Department, University G. d’Annunzio of Chieti-Pescara, 42-65127 Pescara, Italy
Interests: dynamic energy simulation; energy retrofit solutions; double skin façade; building energy requirement and comfort

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

In recent decades, the economy centred on the general reduction of energy consumption and CO2 emissions, which has dictated important changes in every sector, especially in construction. Buildings are, in fact, one of the key consumers of energy, and a generally rising trend in energy use has been recorded in the last 20 years in many countries all over the world.

Sustainability in the field of buildings and in energy production related to a building’s life cycle is an urgent problem to tackled and one of the major key topics for the next decades. The sustainability covers a wide variety of engineering and architectural disciplines concerning theoretical research, fundamental studies, mathematical modeling, numerical simulations, and experimental investigations.

This Special Issue intends to present the most interesting trends and strategies related to the sustainability in buildings and energy uses and production in buildings sector.

The scope of this Special Issue includes, but is not limited to the following subjects:

  • Buildings construction materials;
  • Passive and active buildings skins;
  • HVAC systems and their integration with domotic apparatus;
  • Renewable energies for buildings (Photovoltaic systems, Solar Thermal Systems, Small Wind Turbines, Low Temperatures Geothermal Systems);
  • LCA and LCC approaches for sustainability.

Prof. Dr. Sergio Montelpare
Dr. Camilla Lops
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

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Keywords

  • innovative materials for buildings
  • climate changes and buildings
  • building adaptive solutions
  • buildings skins
  • smart HVAC systems
  • renewable energies for buildings
  • LCA and LCC
  • new energy storage and distributions options
  • novel sustainability strategies
  • innovative building analyses

Published Papers (8 papers)

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Research

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12 pages, 2530 KiB  
Article
Exploiting the Value of Active and Multifunctional Façade Technology through the IoT and AI
Appl. Sci. 2024, 14(3), 1145; https://doi.org/10.3390/app14031145 - 30 Jan 2024
Viewed by 590
Abstract
In recent years, the interest in multifunctional façade (MF) technology has increased significantly. Recent advances in the integration of active and passive technologies have led to a new concept of building skins with highly flexible and decentralized control. Such an approach is considered [...] Read more.
In recent years, the interest in multifunctional façade (MF) technology has increased significantly. Recent advances in the integration of active and passive technologies have led to a new concept of building skins with highly flexible and decentralized control. Such an approach is considered capable of tackling environmental challenges and enhancing indoor environmental quality (IEQ). Integrated HVAC systems, dynamic blinds, and renewable energy systems can drastically increase façade responsiveness and efficiency. Although the technical feasibility of active and MF technology has already been demonstrated, market applications are still limited. The goal of this paper is to define the state of the art of MFs and clarify how the integration of IoT technologies, supported by AI, can increase market interest by fully exploiting the value of these systems. Indeed, recent advances in the IoT and data analysis tools are opening up attractive scenarios in optimization process. Starting with an overview of the most interesting EU-funded projects, this paper presents a MF case study in which IoT infrastructures are fully integrated. The prototype, realized within the MEZeroE Horizon project, stimulates a debate on future trajectories (and gaps) for the marketability of MF. Full article
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20 pages, 9921 KiB  
Article
Double-Skin Façades for Building Retrofitting and Climate Change: A Case Study in Central Italy
Appl. Sci. 2023, 13(13), 7629; https://doi.org/10.3390/app13137629 - 28 Jun 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1178
Abstract
In recent years, the need to make the built environment more resilient and adaptable to climate change has become essential. In Europe, this aspect concerns most existing buildings with several deficiencies from the energy efficiency point of view, considering they were designed before [...] Read more.
In recent years, the need to make the built environment more resilient and adaptable to climate change has become essential. In Europe, this aspect concerns most existing buildings with several deficiencies from the energy efficiency point of view, considering they were designed before the introduction of modern codes. Among the various strategies for building energy retrofitting, Double-Skin Façades (DSFs) have gained attention due to their potential to improve the building performance and inhabitants’ comfort. This research aims to evaluate the use of adequately designed DSFs for the energy restoration of buildings. In detail, various DSF configurations are applied to a residential building located in Central Italy and investigated under present and future climate conditions, estimated through regional climate models. The installation of multi-layered façades, particularly the Multi-Storey typology, greatly reduces energy consumption and increases the expected comfort rates. When the selected configuration was considered, the results underline a decrease in the annual building energy requirement of about 37–56% up to 42–59%, respectively, for 2030 and 2070. Moreover, using multi-layer façades can increase indoor minimum operative temperatures up to 3.8% during the coldest months and reduce the maximum summer ones by 1.9–3.8%, raising comfort levels. Full article
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18 pages, 8205 KiB  
Article
Building Energy Flexibility Assessment in Mediterranean Climatic Conditions: The Case of a Greek Office Building
Appl. Sci. 2023, 13(12), 7246; https://doi.org/10.3390/app13127246 - 17 Jun 2023
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1020
Abstract
The EU energy and climate policy has set quantitative goals for decarbonization based on the energy efficiency and the evolution of energy systems. The utilization of demand side flexibility can help towards this direction and achieve the target of higher levels of penetration [...] Read more.
The EU energy and climate policy has set quantitative goals for decarbonization based on the energy efficiency and the evolution of energy systems. The utilization of demand side flexibility can help towards this direction and achieve the target of higher levels of penetration in regard to intermittent renewable energy production and carbon emission reduction. This paper presents a simulation-based assessment of thermal flexibility in a typical office building in Greece, which is a representative Mediterranean country. The use of variable speed heat pumps coupled with hydronic terminal units was evaluated. The research focused mainly on the evaluation of energy flexibility offered by energy stored in the form of thermal energy by utilizing the building’s thermal mass. The demand response potential under hourly CO2eq intensity and energy prices was investigated. The flexibility potential was evaluated under different demand response strategies, and the effect of demand response on energy consumption, operational costs, CO2eq emissions and thermal comfort was analyzed and discussed. The results showed that both control strategies based on both the CO2eqintensity signal and spot price signal have, in some cases, the potential for cost and emission savings, and in other cases, the potential to depreciate in terms of emissions and cost the increase of energy consumption due to load shifting. Full article
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13 pages, 3659 KiB  
Article
Kinetic Photovoltaic Facade System Based on a Parametric Design for Application in Signal Box Buildings in Switzerland
Appl. Sci. 2023, 13(7), 4633; https://doi.org/10.3390/app13074633 - 06 Apr 2023
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 2178
Abstract
This study aims to produce renewable energy by applying a solar-energy-harvesting architectural design using solar panels on the facade of a building. To install as many solar panels as possible on the building elevation, the Signal Box auf dem Wolf, located in Basel, [...] Read more.
This study aims to produce renewable energy by applying a solar-energy-harvesting architectural design using solar panels on the facade of a building. To install as many solar panels as possible on the building elevation, the Signal Box auf dem Wolf, located in Basel, Switzerland, was selected as the research target. The solar panels to be installed on the facade of the Signal Box auf dem Wolf are planned such that they are able to move according to the optimal tilt angle every month to allow maximal energy generation. The kinetic photovoltaic facade system and the simulation of renewable energy generation were implemented using a parametric design. The novelty of this study is the development of a kinetic photovoltaic facade system using a parametric design algorithm. From the perspective of renewable energy in the field of architecture, the kinetic photovoltaic facade system developed in this study has the advantage of producing maximal renewable energy according to the optimal tilt angle of the solar panels. Additionally, building facades that move according to the optimal tilt angle will contribute to the expansion of the field of sustainable architectural design. Full article
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29 pages, 1312 KiB  
Article
Methodology to Identify and Prioritise the Sustainability Aspects to Be Considered in the Design of Brazilian Healthcare Buildings
Appl. Sci. 2023, 13(6), 3807; https://doi.org/10.3390/app13063807 - 16 Mar 2023
Viewed by 931
Abstract
The evidence of climate change has increased the necessity for actions to avoid severe consequences for future generations. Recognising the benefits of sustainable and energy-efficient buildings has led to the development of several methods to estimate and rate the performance of building. Healthcare [...] Read more.
The evidence of climate change has increased the necessity for actions to avoid severe consequences for future generations. Recognising the benefits of sustainable and energy-efficient buildings has led to the development of several methods to estimate and rate the performance of building. Healthcare buildings are functional and dynamic structures that support their occupants’ healing processes and comfort. They have a significant role in society and specific goals in merging their strategic planning requirements (cost reduction, regulatory compliance, social responsibility, and performance improvement) with Sustainable Development Goals. Therefore, this paper addresses critical issues regarding the sustainability of the Brazilian healthcare sector by analysing the suitability of the most common international healthcare building sustainability assessment methods to the specific social, economic, and environmental contexts of the Brazilian healthcare sector. The paper analyses the HBSAtool-PT, a sustainability assessment method developed for this type of building, and identifies the possibilities for adapting to the Brazilian context. As a result, this research proposes a framework to assess the sustainability of healthcare buildings in Brazil. In the framework’s definition, a survey was conducted to determine the opinion of building stakeholders regarding the importance of indicators. A weighing system for the proposed sustainability indicators was developed using the AHP method. Full article
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22 pages, 6022 KiB  
Article
Sustainable Operation of Active Distribution Networks
Appl. Sci. 2023, 13(5), 3115; https://doi.org/10.3390/app13053115 - 28 Feb 2023
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 999
Abstract
The present and future conditions in the energy market impose extremely high standards to the operation of building energy systems. Moreover, distribution networks face new operational and technical challenges as a result of the rapid penetration of renewable energy sources (RES) and other [...] Read more.
The present and future conditions in the energy market impose extremely high standards to the operation of building energy systems. Moreover, distribution networks face new operational and technical challenges as a result of the rapid penetration of renewable energy sources (RES) and other forms of distributed generation. Consequently, active distribution networks (ADNs) will play a crucial role in the exploitation of smart building prosumers, smart grids, and RES. In this paper, an optimization method for the sustainable operation of active distribution networks hosting smart residential building prosumers, plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) aggregators, and RES was developed. The thermal and electrical loads of the residential buildings were modeled in detail and an aggregation method was implemented to the hosted PEVs. Moreover, smart power dispatch techniques were applied at each building prosumer and PEV aggregator hosted by the active distribution network. Simultaneously, all the operational limitations of the active distribution network, building energy systems, and the hosted PEVs were satisfied. The constrained optimal power flow (OPF) algorithm was exploited to keep the voltages of the hosting distribution network between the permissible bounds. A significant operation cost reduction of 17% was achieved. The developed models were verified through detailed simulation results. Full article
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26 pages, 2225 KiB  
Article
Nature-Based Solutions in Urban Areas: A European Analysis
Appl. Sci. 2023, 13(1), 168; https://doi.org/10.3390/app13010168 - 23 Dec 2022
Cited by 7 | Viewed by 3927
Abstract
Currently, the world is facing resource scarcity as the environmental impacts of human intervention continue to intensify. To facilitate the conservation and recovery of ecosystems and to transform cities into more sustainable, intelligent, regenerative, and resilient environments, the concepts of circularity and nature-based [...] Read more.
Currently, the world is facing resource scarcity as the environmental impacts of human intervention continue to intensify. To facilitate the conservation and recovery of ecosystems and to transform cities into more sustainable, intelligent, regenerative, and resilient environments, the concepts of circularity and nature-based solutions (NbS) are applied. The role of NbS within green infrastructure in urban resilience is recognised, and considerable efforts are being made by the European Commission (EC) to achieve the European sustainability goals. However, it is not fully evidenced, in an integrated way, which are the main NbS implemented in the urban environment and their effects. This article aims to identify the main and most recent NbS applied in urban environments at the European level and to analyse the integration of different measures as an innovative analysis based on real cases. For this purpose, this work presents a literature review of 69 projects implemented in 24 European cities, as well as 8 urban actions and 3 spatial scales of implementation at the district level. Therefore, there is great potential for NbS adoption in buildings and their surroundings, which are still not prioritized, given the lack of effective monitoring of the effects of NbS. Full article
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Review

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20 pages, 3708 KiB  
Review
Advanced Digital Tools for Data-Informed and Performance-Driven Design: A Review of Building Energy Consumption Forecasting Models Based on Machine Learning
Appl. Sci. 2023, 13(24), 12981; https://doi.org/10.3390/app132412981 - 05 Dec 2023
Viewed by 661
Abstract
Cities and buildings represent the core of human life, the nexus of economic activity, culture, and growth. Although cities cover less than 10% of the global land area, they are notorious for their substantial energy consumption and consequential carbon dioxide (CO2) [...] Read more.
Cities and buildings represent the core of human life, the nexus of economic activity, culture, and growth. Although cities cover less than 10% of the global land area, they are notorious for their substantial energy consumption and consequential carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. These emissions significantly contribute to reducing the carbon budget available to mitigate the adverse impacts of climate change. In this context, the designers’ role is crucial to the technical and social response to climate change, and providing a new generation of tools and instruments is paramount to guide their decisions towards sustainable buildings and cities. In this regard, data-informed digital tools are a viable solution. These tools efficiently utilise available resources to estimate the energy consumption in buildings, thereby facilitating the formulation of effective urban policies and design optimisation. Furthermore, these data-driven digital tools enhance the application of algorithms across the building industry, empowering designers to make informed decisions, particularly in the early stages of design. This paper presents a comprehensive literature review on artificial intelligence-based tools that support performance-driven design. An exhaustive keyword-driven exploration across diverse bibliographic databases yielded a consolidated dataset used for automated analysis for discerning the prevalent themes, correlations, and structural nuances within the body of literature. The primary findings indicate an increasing emphasis on master plans and neighbourhood-scale simulations. However, it is observed that there is a lack of a streamlined framework integrating these data-driven tools into the design process. Full article
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