The Peer review has evaluated this group as Excellent
The research theme of the research unit Energy and Built Environment is the energy sustainability of the built environment. The research line deals with the design, control and evaluation of the energy sustainability of components and systems at different levels, from the building level – including the HVAC systems as an integral part of the construction – to the urban level. The theme of the energy sustainability of the built environment is treated at different levels: 1. Minimisation of the energy demand of buildings. The building is studied as a system by means of dynamic simulation models dealing either with its energy performance or its heating and visual comfort; in this framework the effectiveness of innovative and traditional components is checked. The cooling issue is specially focussed. This kind of approach, that is also developed in participation with several international initiatives, has been adopted in the design of low energy buildings in different climatic conditions and is used in the development of standards aimed at energy conservation in the building market. Innovative transparent building components are also studied, aimed at both reducing the energy demand and improving visual comfort. 2. Primary energy consumption minimisation of energy conversion technologies. Energy demand, even if minimised, must be met by means of technological systems characterised by maximum efficiency. In this framework, low energy – i.e. low primary energy consumption – HVAC systems are studied and implemented. System innovation is dealt with, i.e. the combination and the adaptation – to different climatic, operating and demand dynamic conditions – of components either already established in the market or under development, by optimizing their performances. It is a kind of activity requiring a wide use of dynamic simulation models, some of which are developed ad hoc. This approach has also been used for the implementation of building regulations aiming at the reduction of energy consumption in climatic contexts different from Italian one. 3. Use of renewable energy sources. Primary energy consumption, once minimised, can be met in large part by renewable sources. The research is focussed on the development of innovative components and systems (e.g. hybrid PV-thermal solar collectors, using either air and water as heat exchange fluids), in their technical and economic optimisation, in their design and in their integration in the building envelope. The latter activity is also carried out within an international initiative. 4. Urban and district level. Either in the case of new settlements and – especially – in the case of existing ones, the use of appropriate energy systems at district and urban level allows greater primary energy savings than the ones obtainable on a building level. This is not only because on a larger scale the same technologies are more efficient, but especially because it is possible to create cycles and energy cascading that on a building level are not possible. The 92 activity is based on the study of optimum urban layouts in relation to local climate, to urban planning rules and to the energy analysis of urban energy systems, with the aim of designing carbon neutral settlements. Within this framework is the study of the implementation of the Distributed Energy Resources concept. This activity, also developed within international initiatives, implies a large use of dynamic simulation models, some of which are developed ad hoc.