The latest EU EPBD building directive’s emphasis on building automation underscores the need for smart implementation of smart buildings says Graham Martin, chairman, EnOcean Alliance

The EU is getting serious and tightening the thumbscrews. Buildings are required to be CO2-neutral by 2050, with interim goals set for 2030 and 2040. This is leading to a growing number of increasingly strict requirements in the coming years.

While up until now the focus has been on the building shell and optimizing the building physics (insulation, heat bridges, etc.), now the spotlight is on improving building automation. This implies that new buildings will require a high standard of energy control, ensuring that heat and light is directed at occupied areas and not wasted on unoccupied spaces. Existing buildings will also need to be modified to achieve the same standards.

The cost of installing and maintaining these automation systems can be significant – but is much more manageable if wireless sensors are used intelligently. These sensors themselves require power. This is best harvested from the environment rather than drawn from batteries which need replacing– adding cost and substituting one environmental issue with another. Fortunately, there is a solution to hand: there is an international standard for maintenance free energy harvesting wireless sensor solutions for smart buildings ISO/IEC 14543-3-10, which is managed by the EnOcean Alliance.

The latest EPBD (Energy Performance of Buildings Directive) agreed in May 2018, establishes requirements for buildings, which are to be implemented by EU member states under their national laws. These requirements are based on the view expressed in the EPBD that existing buildings in the EU are responsible for 36% of all CO2 emissions. Buildings thus play a key role in reaching the EU climate targets. The EPBD therefore requires the EU member states to establish guidelines, come up with measurable actions and provide subsidies. It also emphasizes that these measures apply to existing rental homes as well. The necessary legal and administrative regulations must be put into force by March 10, 2020.

In England and Wales, the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government is responsible for this issue (it’s a devolved matter in Scotland and Northern Ireland). Its requirements are covered by the Energy Performance of Buildings (Certificates and Inspections) (England and Wales) Regulations. The latest revision to the EPBD will automatically apply in the UK even if Brexit proceeds on the planned timetable.

Building automation is gaining ground

The EPBD now explicitly focuses on regulation and control. It emphasizes building automation and simultaneously imposes strict requirements. Maintenance-free wireless sensor solutions for smart buildings based on the international EnOcean wireless standard (ISO/IEC 14543-3-10) are the ideal path to implementing these regulations with minimum installation cost, minimum alterations to existing buildings, minimum disruption to users and minimum ongoing maintenance.
"Installing self-regulating devices": Control circuits require sensors. They have to be installed in the best places for recording the desired data. Radio-based and maintenance-free sensors can be used here systematically, flexibly and cost-neutrally over the long term.
"Logging the actual energy performance" of heating and air-conditioning systems: This can be done only with intensive monitoring. A closely meshed network of wired sensors would mean a great deal of effort for laying cables and for the physical and electrical mounting of the sensors. Radio-based sensors can be planned and installed much more easily and if they are powered from harvested energy require no batteries either.
"Smartness indicator": Buildings need to become smart(er). The trend is toward recording far more measured values than before. To do this, sensor data supplies relevant information for IoT systems in real time. Even with the classic installation of pushbuttons, temperature sensors and motion detectors, chair sensors are already providing information on occupancy. Toilet stalls can be maintained and cleaned according to use, based on sensor data. Clear requirements on the type and position of these sensors do not yet exist. Flexibility and the ability to change locations are thus key criteria on the way to sustainably smart buildings.
Smart installations based on wireless and battery free sensors also retain maximum flexibility. Sensors can be added to or removed from the network in a heartbeat as the building’s layout and use changes.

Smart solutions for smart homes and intelligent buildings

The EnOcean Alliance is a global network of more than 400 companies in the building sector. It develops innovative, maintenance-free wireless solutions for sustainable building automation based on the EnOcean wireless standard (ISO/IEC 14543-3-10). Thanks to their standardised sensor profiles, the products can be combined with each other. These interoperable system solutions lower installation and maintenance costs and provide significant benefits when it comes to energy efficiency, security and comfort. The data obtained with the aid of self-powered wireless sensors can also be integrated into IoT solutions for the cloud, smartphones and tablets. More than one million buildings all over the world now have wireless networks of this type, making EnOcean the international reference technology when it comes to wireless standards for building automation.


Fully addressing the latest EPBD is demanding but worth doing because it creates a better planet for all of us. Carried out in the right way, energy performing buildings of a high standard can be delivered cost effectively and without significant disruption, potentially delivering a worthwhile RoI for the building operator. The EnOcean energy harvesting based wireless standard is a key element in delivering such energy performing buildings and the Alliance and its 400 members are valuable partners, delivering an entire ecosystem of self-powered wireless sensor solutions. We know what the EPBD requirements mean and are fully ready to work with building operators to support them in pain-free delivery of EPBD creating future-oriented system solutions for efficient buildings.

The author is indebted to Prof. Dr. Michael Kroedel of the IGT - Institut für Gebäudetechnologie for his analysis of the EPBD on which this article is based.