Brussels, 24 June 2019
Centre Albert Borschette, room 0.D (ground floor)
Rue Froissart 36

Part I. Inspection of stand-alone ventilation systems

The first stakeholders' meeting on the inspection of stand alone ventilation systems was physically attended by 38 stakeholders from the construction sector (associations of technical building system suppliers, architects, engineers, etc., and building associations), national authorities (ministries, energy agencies, certification bodies, etc.), real estate market, property and consumer associations, research & academia, think tanks & NGOs.


Opening of the meeting - by Sylvain Robert, European Commission, DG ENERGY

The meeting was opened by Mr. Robert, policy officer at DG ENER, assigned on behalf of the European Commission with the supervision of the feasibility study.

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Introducing the policy context - by Pau Garcia Audi, European Commission, DG ENERGY

Mr. Audi presented the EPBD policy background concerning ventilation systems. He explained how ventilation systems were considered in the EPBD before its revision in 2018, and what has evolved with the revision.

He also referred to the recently published Recommendations to support the EU Members States in their national transposition of the revised and new provisions of the EPBD and in particular to the Recommendation on buildings modernisation (Commission Recommendation (EU) 2019/1019 of 7 June 2019), which includes further guidance on combined heating / air-conditioning and ventilation systems in relation to Article 14 and 15 of the EPBD. This Commission Recommendation includes explanations about the notion of combined heating and ventilation systems that can be useful to understand what are stand-alone ventilation systems in the context of this feasibility study.

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Inspection of stand-alone ventilation systems, state of art and survey results feasibility study - by Peter Wouters, INIVE

The Coordinator of the feasibility study consortium, Mr. Wouters, first introduced the scope and objectives of the feasibility study in general, and more specifically of the part on inspection of stand-alone ventilation systems. He then initiated a live voting session in relation to the state of the art regarding the need and expectations around inspections, while in parallel presenting the results of a similar online survey undertaken earlier this year in which 255 stakeholders participated.

The voting suggests that a minority of respondents considers that ventilation systems have adequate performance as concerns energy and indoor air quality.

Asked about what needs to be improved, meeting participants mostly voted for indoor air quality. Survey respondents had answered in order of importance: indoor air quality, energy performance, then acoustics and draught.

At the question at which stage inspection should take place, meeting participants first voted for installation, followed by commissioning and then maintenance.

The range of reasons given for poor performance of ventilation systems included bad design, execution, commissioning and maintenance, but also lack of qualitative products, product information, inspection and awareness.

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Overview of field study results – by Jelle Laverge, UGent

Mr. Laverge first highlighted some key characteristics of “good” ventilation system. He then presented the results of a selection of field studies on ventilation performance.

In 30% of the studied cases, measured air supply in bedroom ventilation systems were found to be oversized, leading to energy waste. In living spaces, mechanical ventilation was often found to be undersized, leading to underperformance and bad indoor air quality.

Overall, mechanical extract air was on average found to be adequate, even though at least one room in each house was not meeting the requirements. Extraction was often found to be better than supply, mainly due to the requirements for exhaust air being less strict than for supply air.

In Finland, about 70% of the investigated cases do not meet the requirements. In France, more than 25% of the measured cases have exhaust air flow rates which are not compliant with the regulation. In Belgium, the concentration of particulate matters in bedrooms was found to be too high, whereas in Estonia there was a significant undersizing of the ventilation systems.

Overall, two key aspects were found to be most influencing performance: control and maintenance. For instance, 70% of the 1.000 cases studied by a manufacturing company, systems were found to be running at the lowest flow rates. This seems to suggest that checks in real operating conditions could be beneficial.

Finally, Mr. Laverge closed his presentation by showcasing the potential for smart systems and big data in monitoring system performance for the future.

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First questions and discussion round

During the first discussion round, a representative of a standardisation body enquired about the relation between the installed and measured ventilation capacity against indoor air quality, as found in the field tests run and presented by Mr. Laverge. Did the required air flow rate ensure sufficient indoor air quality? Mr. Laverge explained that the first step was to check whether the system had sufficient capacity.

A representative of the ventilation product suppliers enquired about the overall situation at the EU level. According to the speakers, reports at various AIVC (Air Infiltration and Ventilation Centre) workshops, indicated frequent problems, whereby installed capacity seemed to be problematic in most cases. The Coordinator, Mr. Wouters, highlighted that the situation can differ, depending on lifetime, building type, etc.; for example, there is very limited data available for non-residential buildings.

Another stakeholder enquired about the relationship between building codes and indoor air quality, pointing out that fulfilling the requirements of the former does not always ensure achievement of the latter.

The Swedish mandatory inspection scheme was mentioned by another stakeholder as a best-case example which shows that when the right boundary conditions are set, the systems perform well.

Finally, the importance of the possibility to control air flow on location was highlighted.

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First outcomes of the feasibility study on inspection of stand-alone ventilation systems – by Francois Durier, INIVE-CETIAT

Mr. Durier, leader of the part of the feasibility study on the inspection of ventilations systems, first introduced the context, scope and objective of the study and relevant definitions. He then gave an overview of regulations, standards and guidelines relating to the topic and noted important alternative options to inspection, i.e. easy access to product data, clear procedures, certification of performance, training, awareness raising and smart control.

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Inspection scheme Ireland – by Emmanuel Bourdin, Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government

Mr. Bourdin announced the very recent publication of the Irish regulations Part F on ventilation systems and Part L on Conservation of Fuel and Energy for dwellings which requires Nearly Zero Energy Buildings for Dwellings from 1 November 2019. According to the latter, all dwellings must be tested for airtightness by an independent competent person certified by an independent third party. There are already 62 certified testers available in the country. The dwelling ventilation rate requirement is designed to meet 0.5 air changes per hour for typical dwellings. Regulations in addition include requirements for systems to be installed, balanced and commissioned by competent installers so that a new set of relevant training courses is foreseen to run nationally soon. Systems should then be validated by an independent third party to ensure that they achieve the design flow rates. This applies to all types of stand-alone ventilation in new dwellings and major renovations including continuous mechanical extract ventilation, mechanical ventilation with heat recovery and natural ventilation. The National Standards Authority of Ireland is currently consulting with the ventilation industry in designing the scheme for independent third-party validation process.

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Inspection scheme France – by Adeline Mélois, CEREMA

Ms. Mélois presented the situation in France, where the French Ministry of construction created in 2015 a national consultative body on ventilation issues, consisting of about 60 participants from the market, assigned among others with relevant research, information and training, as well as with the definition of a relevant national action plan. Among their activities, the Livre Blanc – Acte I proposes a compulsory check at the end of construction works for any new or majorly renovated residential building with a new ventilation system, to certify that airflow requirements are met. Control is operated by the authority through a network of expert civil servants. In 2017 alone, about 20.000 dwellings were controlled.

In addition, two national documents regulate national qualification for ductwork airtightness testers. Among these, the Promevent protocol defines the requirements for testing residential mechanical ventilation systems.

Other tools currently under development will address mechanical ventilation systems in non-residential buildings and natural and hybrid ventilation systems in dwellings.

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Second questions and discussion round

During this second round of questions and discussions, a product supplier expressed his support for inspection, in particular for small/residential buildings, for which inspection must not only be seen as a cost. He enquired whether the study intends to identify a political wish to implement inspection for small systems. Mr. Robert clarified the objective of the technical study being to investigate the possibilities and expected impacts of a range of approaches, without any preconceived ideas about possible further action. He highlighted the importance of receiving stakeholders’ input in defining recommendations and ways forward.

A stakeholder from Germany noted the recently renewed inspection guideline DIN SPEC 15240.

Additionally, there was a remark that in Ireland fan power is also measured.

There was discussion about the scaling up of inspection against costs. Ms. Melois explained that in France, control by civil servants is on a sample of buildings, whereby all new buildings are airtightness tested and checked by 1.000 operators. Of course, more will be needed if inspection is also made mandatory. A representative of the real estate market noted the overall contracting cost at the end of the construction and there has already been a scale market change, in particular where the provider is the same for both.

Finally, a product supplier enquired on the impact of training of installers as an alternative to inspection, suggesting that the delay in achieving impact in practice is probably longer than the delay for observing an impact from inspection.

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Further dive into survey results and an overview of possible measures and approaches - by Peter Wouters, INIVE

The morning session continues with a further dive into survey results and an overview of possible measures and approaches by Mr. Wouters. A highlight of this part of Mr. Wouters’ presentation is that access to field data (how good or bad are the performances in reality) is important to be able to assess the situation and to decide on possible actions. This requires and is supported, among others, by awareness raising and training.

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Interactive voting and discussion round – by Francois Durier, INIVE- CETIAT

In this part of the meeting, a set of 6 questions were opened to trigger discussion among participants.

On Question 1, about the expected/desired result of an inspection, 56% of participants voted for a report including recommendations.

Question 2 about the need for a systematic inspection for new systems, received 75% of votes for mandatory inspection and 22% of votes for other measures.

The same question (Question 3) for existing systems received 63% votes for mandatory inspection, 13% for other measures and 20% for voluntary inspection.

At this stage, one stakeholder mentioned the need to consider more than just energy.

Another stakeholder enquired about the definition of newly installed systems.

A representative of property owners expressed concerns about the public acceptance of the inspection of brand-new systems, whereby the consortium clarified that inspection may be part of the installation process itself. A product supplier representative mentioned the difference between regulations for new and existing buildings, and noted that conversion is good but also difficult and there might be a need for differing requirements.

Question 4 focused on who can perform inspections. Most votes went to independent expert, then designer, installer, maintenance staff and finally owner. There were major concerns about whether the building owner would be capable of performing such inspections and enquired about the type of competence required. Ms. Melois clarified the difference between letting the owner perform the inspection and making the owner aware of his own influence on the performance. She explained that a combination of methodologies and frequencies may be best applied, with competences depending on the requirements set for each.

The cost for inspection by independent inspectors and economy at scale were again at the forefront of discussion. Several factors were said to be considered, among which independency, competence and cost. The possibility for local authorities taking ownership of inspection was brought up as well.

Question 5 was about the most effective ways to improve efficiency. Inspection gained most votes, followed by explanations and then training and qualification.

The next question (Question 6) was whether smart systems can reduce inspection needs. Seventy three percent (73%) of the votes were positive, with a clarification that recommendations for systems are also necessary.

One of the participants pointed to the fact that even though one may comply with building codes and national laws, there is still a possibility that systems do not operate properly. The consortium confirmed that there are initial performance requirements to be fulfilled on the one hand, but that lifetime operation must be considered as well.

At the close of the interactive voting session, there was a round for additional remarks by stakeholders.

Though not directly linked to the feasibility study, a stakeholder noted that small air-handling units with heating and cooling coils or residential ventilation systems with an electrical resistance for preheating of the incoming air are not covered by Articles 14 and 15 of the EPBD because of a low rated output; this has been highlighted by some stakeholders (manufacturers associations) as a potential gap in regulation since small air-handling units are widely used in Northern European countries.

Highlights among the final remarks, included some recommendations for the feasibility study, among which the need to differentiate the market segmentation according to boundary conditions, and the role of the building manager who could potentially also be able to operate inspection.

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End of the morning session

Summarising the discussions of the day, Mr. Wouters noted a large degree of correlation between the survey and voting results, with a tendency in favour of inspection, but accompanied by relevant supportive measures, including e.g. evidence on the ground, cost-benefit analysis, liability issues and workforce capacity.

Before closing the meeting, Mr. Wouters announced the tentative date for the 2nd stakeholders meeting being 28 November 2019, informed that presentations of the day would be made available on soon, and expressed his sincere thanks to all participants and speakers, and in particular to Mr. Sergio Oliveira of the European Commission and Ms. Marianna Papaglastra from the consortium for their support in organising this meeting.

Mr. Robert reminded the aim of the study being to investigate the need rather than to promote inspection, and in this context, to contribute to the analysis of the relevance, feasibility and possible scope of different approaches at EU level to the inspection of stand-alone ventilation systems.

As a sidenote, he mentioned different references to indoor air quality and energy performance by other bodies of the European Commission among which some of the JRC.

He then highlighted the importance of assessing alternative measures to inspection, providing a cost/benefit balance and quantification of impacts for sustained assessment of the proposed way forward.

Finally, Mr. Robert closed the meeting by expressing a special thanks to all participants and contributors to this meeting and the promise that the study continues and will bring most interesting results in its second half.

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