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Turning temples of consumerism into lighthouses of sustainable consumer behavior

Shopping malls are sometimes perceived as "icons of consumerist society", because of their high energy demand, high CO2 emissions and waste, despite the increasing, most­ly individual, ‘green’ initiatives in the field. The CommONEnergy project wants to transform shopping malls into lighthouses of energy efficient architectures and systems.

The CommONEnergy project aims to re-conceptualize shopping malls through deep retrofitting, developing a systemic approach made of innovative technologies and solution sets as well as methods and tools to support their implementation and to assess their environmental and social impact in a life cycle approach.

Wholesales & Retail buildings represent  28% of the total non-residential ones (BPIE, 2010). Considering typical shopping malls high impact on modern society (ICSC, 2008), the project addresses their transformation as lighthouses of energy efficient architectures and systems as well as assessment transparency.

Shopping malls characteristics and their impact on energy efficient retrofits:

  • The lifetime expectancy of shopping malls is usually lower than for residential buildings. Therefore, in some cases, demolition and rebuilding is the best solution from an economic point of view.
  • The increase in energy efficiency after rebuilding leads to a reduced influence of the use phase in total. Therefore rebuilding strategies and materials will have a higher impact. As a consequence materials and construction processes have to be taken into account in detail via LCA studies;
  • Standard pre-manufactured parts of the building envelope and systems are needed to decrease costs and renovation time;
  • They have large spaces/volumes to be refurbished with peculiar features and logistic issues, with a high potential for standardization and replication in different contexts all around Europe;
  • Few cases with well thought-out measurement systems for continuous commissioning: purchased energy is always known but there are fewer measurements on how energy is distributed between functions in the building;
  • The implicit mission to meet consumer expectations to the greatest extent possible, also in terms of comfort and other aspects with energy implications;
  • Significant diversification of activities under the same shopping malls that allows to take advantage of synergies and recovery of energy dissipated/rejected from one activity by another.

Illustration: EU building stock overall figure (source: BPIE, 2011)