Harvesting big data from residential building energy performance certificates: retrofitting and climate change mitigation insights at a regional scale

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The reduction of energy consumption and the increase in energy efficiency is currently an important cornerstone of EU policy. Energy performance certificates (EPCs) were implemented as one of the tools to promote this agenda, and are used for the energy performance assessment of buildings. In this study, the characteristics of the Portuguese dwelling stock are regionally analysed using data from approximately 523,000 Portuguese residential EPCs. Furthermore, a bottom-up building typology approach is used to assess the regional energy needs impact of retrofitting actions and to estimate the heating and cooling energy performance gaps of the whole dwelling stock, as well as the potential CO2 emissions resulting from the gaps' potential offset due to increase thermal comfort. The results show that Portuguese residential buildings have very low energy performance, with windows and roofs being identified as the most energy inefficient elements. Roof retrofitting has the highest potential for the reduction of energy needs. The estimated heating and cooling energy performance gap amount to very significant percentages, due to the poor performing building stock but also very low energy consumption levels, with probable consequences for the thermal comfort of occupants. Assuming the current energy mix, carbon emissions would be 9.8 and 20.2 times higher associated with heating and cooling, respectively, if the actual final energy consumption were to match the estimated theoretical values derived from building regulation. This study demonstrates several application cases and leverages the potential of the individual EPC, increasing the detail in the dwelling stock characterization and energy performance estimation, revealing its value for energy retrofit and climate change mitigation assessments, as well as establishing the ground for future work related to building retrofits, energy efficiency measure implementation, climate change mitigation, thermal comfort, and energy poverty studies.
Original languageEnglish
Article number095007
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 6 Sep 2019


  • building envelope
  • heating and cooling
  • energy performance gap
  • energy needs
  • Portugal

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