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Energy performance of residential buildings design


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Samhällets styrsystem

– en vänbok till Inga Carlman

Society’s steering systems

– a Friend book to Inga Carlman

Danielski, I. 2016. Energy performance of residential buildings design. Pages 177-186 in E. Grönlund & A.

Longueville (eds.): Society’s steering systems – a Friend

book to Inga Carlman. Mid Sweden University, Öster-


Publicerad av:


Avd. Ekoteknik och hållbart byggande Akademigatan 1

83125 Östersund www.miun.se

Samhällets styrsystem – en vänbok till Inga Carlman Erik Grönlund

Anna Longueville (red.)

Första upplagan.

© Författarna 2016 ISBN 978-91-88025-97-5

Omslagsfoton: Staffan Westerlund, Erik Grönlund

Published by:

Mid Sweden University

Dept. of Ecotechnology and Sustainable Building Engineering Akademigatan 1

SE-83125 Östersund SWEDEN

Society’s steering systems – a Friend book to Inga Carlman Erik Grönlund

Anna Longueville (eds.)

First edition

© The Authors, 2016 ISBN 978-91-88025-97-5

Cover photos: Staffan Westerlund, Erik Grönlund


Itai Danielski

Department of Ecotechnology and Sustainable Building Engineering, Mid Sweden University, Sweden

Itai Danielski is a senior lecturer and researcher in the Department of Ecotechnology and Sustainable Building Engineering at Mid Sweden University. His background is within the field of material technology, building technology, energy technology and hold a Ph.D. in environmental science. His research is mainly within the field of integrated environmental assessment, with focus on the relation between the building sector, energy sector and the environment.

“I first med Inga Carlman when I started my doctoral studies in 2009. At the time, Inga was

a professor in the Department of Ecotechnology and Sustainable Building Engineering. After

my main supervisor has left the University, Inga took his role and make sure that my studies

would not be affected. She was both a mentor and a colleague. Her contribution to my doctoral

dissertation are highly appreciated and her signature is apparent in the entire text.”


Energy performance of residential buildings design

Ph.D. Itai Danielski The Department of Ecotechnology and Sustainable Building Engineering

Mid Sweden University

Through the history of civilization, humans have built shelters to practice their social activities, while having protection against weather, wild animals, and other human beings. Over the course of time, vernacular dwellings have evolved to respond to climate challenges, available materials and cultural expectations in a given location.

Such buildings include, e.g. the adobe house, the Inuit igloos in Greenland, and the open courtyard building design.

Since the start of the postmodern architecture, in the middle of the 20th century, new technologies, new materials, and changes in societal structures have changed the way buildings have been designed and constructed. Modern lifestyle become more dependent on energy. For example Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning systems (HVAC) in buildings became widely used to improve indoor comfort. After the oil-supply crises in the middle of the 1970s, the connection between building design and the environment changed from just providing sufficient thermal comfort to promoting energy efficiency due to the awareness of the fact that natural resources are limited. That was the start of the sustainable architecture movement.

It was during this time building regulations in many countries started to include aspects of energy efficiency. This chapter will discuss two aspects of building design and their effect on the overall energy efficiency of the building: the interior building design and the exterior building design.

Interior building design

The specific final energy demand is widely used as an indicator for energy efficiency in buildings as it makes it possible to compare energy efficiency among buildings with different sizes. It is defined as the ratio between the total final energy demand of a building during one year of operation to its total floor area. However, the measured floor area of a building can vary by 20% depending on its definition [1].

In Sweden, the “floor area” is defined by the National Board of Housing, Building and

Planning (Boverket) [2] and is measured according to the SS 021054 standard [3]. The

Swedish definition is equivalent to the European “overall internal dimension” [1],

with the exception that it excludes areas with indoor temperature that is lower than

10ºC during the heating season. The reason is that such low-heated areas will reduce

the value of the specific final energy demand [4], and thus may misrepresent the

energy efficiency of the building in comparison to other buildings.


Figure 1. Five different designs of existing multi-storey apartment buildings.


In multi-storey apartment buildings the definition of “floor area” can be divided further into three types of sub-areas: apartment areas, common areas and commercial areas. The specific final energy demand of a building is the weighted arithmetic average of the specific final energy demand of its sub-areas. Common areas are all the areas within a building’s thermal envelope that are not within the apartments, e.g. corridors, staircases basements, etc. Commercial areas can include, for example offices and small shops.

These different sub-areas within the same building may have differences in final energy demand. This will be explained using five newly constructed multi-storey apartment building, as illustrated in figure 1. The buildings are located in Stockholm and were built with similar thermal efficiency.

Figure 2 illustrates a model of the energy demand of the five buildings. The specific final energy demand in the apartment areas (red line) is three to six time higher in comparison to the specific final energy demand common areas (Blue line).

Probable reasons could be: (i) the apartment areas have higher indoor temperature in comparison to common areas, which results in higher heat losses [5, 6]; (ii) higher ventilation air-flow in the apartment areas, which results in both higher ventilation heat losses and a higher amount of electricity consumed by the ventilation system;

(iii) higher demand for domestic water heating in apartment areas; and (iv) lower electricity consumption in the common areas by occupants. The reasons for the lower user of electricity can, for example, be the use of efficient lightning and the absence of white goods and multimedia devices, which together comprise about 70% of the demand for household electricity in Sweden.

Figure 2 also shows that the specific final energy demand of multi-storey apartment buildings increases as the ratio of apartment areas to total floor area increases (black line). The black line was constructed by energy simulation of the lower left building in figure 1 with five different ratios of apartment area to total floor area. First, the ground floor of the building was modelled with four apartments. In each subsequent energy simulation, an area of a single apartment was allocated to the common area, which increases the relative size of the common area by 5%, until the common area occupied the entire ground floor. These results were verified with post occupancy energy measurements of the five multi-storey apartment buildings in figure 1, as illustrated in figure 2 by the circles.

From figure 2 it seems that reducing the relative size of apartment areas from

90% to 70% will reduce the value of the specific final energy demand by 30 kWh/(m


year). However, designing buildings with a lower share of apartment areas does not

increase the energy performance of buildings. On the contrary, the heating demand

per unit of apartment floor area may even increase, as larger common areas may

result in additional heat losses, e.g. through ventilation and by conduction through

the building fabric. This is illustrated in Figure 2 by the dashed line and confirmed

with post occupancy energy monitoring (squares), which represents modified

definition of the floor area of the building, which include only the apartments areas.


Figure 2. A comparison between energy model and post occupancy energy monitoring of multi-storey buildings with different ratios of apartment area to total floor-area. Source: [7].

Exterior building design

The thermal envelope of a building is the area that separates the conditioned and unconditioned spaces of a building, or alternatively, the indoor and the outdoor environment, and is the cause for a large part of the heat losses. Conduction heat losses can be reduced by designing buildings with better thermal efficiency, but also by lower ratio of thermal envelope area to building volume. This ratio is called the shape factor of the building and is a measure of the building’s compactness.

Buildings with lower shape factors have a smaller thermal envelope area in proportion to their volume and are therefore more compact.

The shape factor could also be defined as the ratio between the thermal envelope area to the floor area instead of building’s volume. The thermal envelope to volume definition describes the geometrical compactness efficiency of a given building shape, while the thermal envelope to floor area definition can be considered as the architectural volume efficiency. The advantage of the latter definition is the dependency of the shape factor on the floor height, or on the number of storeys for a given building volume, and thus reflecting better on how efficient the volume of the building is used. Figure 3 illustrates the concept of the shape factor and explains the four factors that influence its value.

(i) The floor height, as compared between building ˈAˈ and ˈBˈ. Buildings with lower floor height will have lower ratio of thermal envelope to floor area.

(ii) The shape of the building for a given volume, as compared between building ˈAˈ and ˈCˈ.

0 40 80 120 160 200 240

0,65 0,70 0,75 0,80 0,85 0,90 0,95 Sp ec ifi c f in al e ne rg y de ma nd kW h/ (m


yea r)

The ratio of apartment area to total floor area


Whole building - method II Measured

Whole building - method II Simulated

Apartment area Simulated

Whole building method I Measured

Whole building - method I Simulated

Common area


(iii) Irregular façades with trenches and bulges, e.g. balconies that extend beyond the façade, may increase the shape factor of a building, as compared between building ˈAˈ and ˈEˈ.

(iv) The size of the building. Buildings with similar shape and larger volume will have lower shape factor, as compared between building ˈAˈ and ˈDˈ.

Larger building volume can be achieved by increasing the height and the length of a building.

Figure 3. Factors affecting the shape factor of buildings: the shape of the building, its size and irregular façades. The parameter ˈaˈ symbolizes one unit of length.

The thermal envelope of a building may include both opaque (e.g. walls) and transparent areas (e.g. windows). Transparent areas enable free heat from solar radiation to enter the building, resulting in lower heating demand during the cold periods. In climates with high intensity of solar radiation during the heating seasons, the effect of the size of the transparent area may be stronger than the effect of the shape factor. Catalina et al. [8] performed energy simulations for different building shapes with climate data from Nice and Lyon in France and found lower heating demand with a higher shape factor. Parasonis et al. [9] obtained similar results by calculating the optimum shape for a multi dwelling residential building with 900 m


of floor area in Kaunas, Lithuania.


Volume a










Floor area 2a











envelope 6a











factor (envelope to volume) 6/a 6/a 7/a 3/a 7/a

(envelope to floor area) 3 6 3.5 1.5 3.5


In climates dominated by cooling demand, the optimal ratio between the external walls and the volume of buildings is uncertain and further studies are needed.

Ourghi et al. [10] analysed the impact of the shape factor on the cooling demand of an office building in Tunis and Kuwait. They compared rectangular and ‘L’ shaped buildings and found a strong correlation between the shape factor, the window size and the cooling demand. Florides et al. [11] compared buildings with similar volumes but different shape factors, using the climate conditions of Nicosia in Cyprus. The impact of the shape factor on the cooling demand was minor in comparison to the change in heating demand. Depecker et al. [12] conclude that there is no correlation between the final energy demand and the shape factor of buildings in climates with predominate cooling demand. In their study, they used the climate conditions in Paris and Carpentras in France.

Several studies have reported that in climates with heating demand, buildings designed with lower shape factors have lower conduction heat losses per floor area, resulting in lower specific heating demand. Aksoy and Inalli [13] studied the difference in final energy demand between three buildings in the climate in Elaziğ in Turkey, with building length to building depth ratios of: 1:1, 2:1 and 1:2 respectively. They found that the rectangular shape (1:1) had the lowest heating demand. Ratti at el. [14] calculated a 10% difference in specific final energy demand between buildings in Toulouse and Berlin only due to differences in their buildings’

morphology. Depecker et al. [12] arrived at a similar conclusion by calculating the final energy demand of 16 identical dwelling units that were arranged in different configurations and thus, with different shape factors. Both Ratti et al. [14] and Depecker et al. [12] suggested that colder climate conditions may increase the impact of the shape factor on the final energy demand.

During winter time, the average outdoor temperatures in Sweden varies from about 0ºC in the south to about -20ºC in the north and solar irradiance is week. These climate conditions stress the importance of the shape factor in new designed buildings, which is illustrated in figure 4 by energy modelling of the five buildings in figure 1.

The buildings were modelled with different thermal envelope efficiencies from

“normal practice” to passive standard. The specific final energy demand for space

heating was found to increase linearly with higher shape factor regardless of the

climate and thermal envelope. The effect of the shape factor, i.e. the change in

specific final energy demand for space heating per unit change in shape factor (the

tangent of each line in figure 4) was found to be higher for buildings with lower

efficiency of thermal envelope and for buildings located in colder climates. The

values ranges from 6.4 kWh/(m


·year·SF) to 28.6 kWh/(m




Shape factor

Figure 4. The effect of the specific final energy demand for space heating for different thermal envelope and climate scenarios.

0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100

0,9 1,1 1,3 1,5 1,7 1,9

Spe ci fic fi na l e ne rg y de ma nd kW h/ (m


ye ar )


0,9 1,1 1,3 1,5 1,7 1,9


0,9 1,1 1,3 1,5 1,7 1,9


0,9 1,1 1,3 1,5 1,7 1,9




1. SIS, Swedish standards institute, SS-EN 15217:2007: Energy performance of buildings - Methods for expressing energy performance and for energy certification of buildings. 2007.

2. Boverket. The Swedish National Board of Housing, Building and Planning, Energideklaration för byggnader– en regelsammanställning (Energy certification of the buildings - a rule compilation). [Energy certification of buildings: A rule compilation]. (2007). Available from: accessed on, in Swedish.

3. SIS, Swedish standards institute, SS 21054:2009, Area och volym för husbyggnader – Terminologi och mätregler (Area and volume of residential buildings - Terminology and measurement rules). 2009, SIS.

4. Regeringskansliet, Government Offices of Sweden, SOU 2005:67:

Energideklarationer Metoder utformning register och expertkompetens (Energy certification Methods, design, records and expertise). 2005, Stockholm:

Government Official Reports

5. Karlsson, J.F. and B. Moshfegh, A comprehensive investigation of a low-energy building in Sweden. Renewable Energy, 2007. 32(11): p. 1830-1841.

6. Tommerup, H., J. Rose, and S. Svendsen, Energy-efficient houses built according to the energy performance requirements introduced in Denmark in 2006. Energy and Buildings, 2007. 39(10): p. 1123-1130.

7. Danielski, I., Large variations in specific final energy use in Swedish apartment buildings: Causes and solutions. Energy and Buildings, 2012. 49(0): p. 276-285.

8. Catalina, T., J. Virgone, and V. Iordache. Study on the impact of the building form on the energy consumption. in 12th conference of international building performance simulation association. 2011. Sydney.

9. Parasonis, J., A. Keizikas, A. Endriukaitytė, and D. Kalibatienė, Architectural Solutions to Increase the Energy Efficiency of Buildings. Journal of Civil Engineering and Management, 2012. 18(1): p. 71-80.

10. Ourghi, R., A. Al-Anzi, and M. Krarti, A simplified analysis method to predict the impact of shape on annual energy use for office buildings. Energy Conversion and Management, 2007. 48(1): p. 300-305.

11. Florides, G.A., S.A. Tassou, S.A. Kalogirou, and L.C. Wrobel, Measures used to lower building energy consumption and their cost effectiveness. Applied Energy, 2002.

73(3–4): p. 299-328.

12. Depecker, P., C. Menezo, J. Virgone, and S. Lepers, Design of buildings shape and energetic consumption. Building and Environment, 2001. 36(5): p. 627-635.

13. Aksoy, U.T. and M. Inalli, Impacts of some building passive design parameters on heating demand for a cold region. Building and Environment, 2006. 41(12): p.


14. Ratti, C., N. Baker, and K. Steemers, Energy consumption and urban texture. Energy

and Buildings, 2005. 37(7): p. 762-776.


Grönlund & Longueville (red.) Samhällets styrsystem – en vänbok till Inga Carlman


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