TEK10, TEK15, Husbanken and NS3700 (Passivhaus Standard) – How Norway is leading the Energy Efficiency revolution

With the introduction of new requirements by Husbanken for access to housing loans, seems like Norway started a real crusade against Energy losses.
The current Norwegian standard for building – TEK10 – is the most strict mandatory building regulation in force in Europe (and probably on the planet). The more strict TEK15is expected to enter in force in the near future, narrowing the gap with the Passivhaus Standard.

In the meantime more and more Architects and Developers are planning new buildings according NS3700, the Norwegian Passivhaus Standard.

Norway has indeed the resources to finance this fast paced marathon to the ultimate Energy efficiency. But the price to pay for this quick “progress” might be more than just money…

Did anyone think about technical limits

Of the requirements set by Husbanken, there is one that changes the whole game as it hits on technical limits of current production technology. We are talking about windows.

Husbanken demands that the average U-value of windows in a new building shall be less or equal to 0.8 W/m2K.
Now, while this number is no news in the Passivhaus world (Germans set it many years ago to 0.85), it is going to shake Norwegian builders and homeowners for a simple reason: in Norway 99% of buildings use top-swing outward opening windows (Danish type) and today there seem not to be a single producer of this type of window capable to provide a product which meets the average U-value of  0.8 W/m2K.

So it follows that if Norway intends to be a pioneer in Energy saving, Norwegians will have to say goodbye to top-swing windows and be happy with German type ones… at least until the window industry catches up with the new demand and provides a new generation of Danish type windows.

Not only about windows

Of course windows are just the top of the iceberg.
In the first trimester of 2014 we started receiving price requests for buildings NS3700 compliant. Requirements for Energy performance of external walls are so strict that a minimum insulation of 350mm is necessary. This calls for improvements in the construction details and in the production process and, while we are well happy to improve our Product, we have to face the fact that the overall price of houses is going to increase.

Together with better insulation requirements there is the demand for better air-tightness, set to 0.6 1/h by the incoming TEK15 (same value of Passivhaus Standard). Again, a new challenge to solve on factory made elements.

The whole housing industry supplying houses to Norway is going to be affected by the rush to Energy efficiency and we’ll have expect changes in the economy of the prefab housing business as transport cost will raise tremendously due to the oversized construction elements.

Be prepared to spend more

Better product means more expensive product. Everybody knows that.
So if you want better Energy performance and you ask for larger walls and better windows you have to be prepared to pay more.

At the moment the only type of window that fully complies with the Husbanken requirement is the German type Passivhaus window. We are talking of the best in the industry and this comes for a price that is more than twice the one of an ordinary good window (TEK10 compliant).

Luckily Husbanken gave a way out to avoid people spending a fortune on windows: if you cannot reach the average U-value of  0.8 W/m2K, provided that you still are in average less than 1.0, you can compensate the Energy loss by adding additional insulation on other component of the house (i.e. the roof).

Well, this is a life saver
From a practical point of view it allows using products from many manufacturers that would be otherwise ruled out… and it allows saving lots money as you don’t have to go for real Passivhaus windows!

So what really changes

It changes that houses are quickly becoming more and more Energy efficient.
It changes that bulding a house will be, with reason, more expensive.
It changes that, in order to save Customer’s money and to cope with today’s technical limitations, Architects and Engineers will have to learn to make better design in order to optimize the Energy performance of windows and other components of the building envelope.
It changes that Norway is effectively teaching to the World that it is time to stop wasting time and do something serious to address the problem of Energy efficiency.

Factory made element houses will continue to rule the market as it is much easier to guarantee good quality on those massive walls if they are built in a controlled environment rather than on site in windy and humid conditions.

As element house Producer, Qhaus will always do its best to keep up with new Standards and higher requirements. If you have any question about TEK10, TEK15, NS3700 or Husbanken requirements and how to cope with them, we’ll be happy to help you to figure out which way to go.