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President Park and zero-energy building

Posted July. 21, 2014 03:39,   


The Beddington Zero Energy Development complex in London, England is a "zero-energy building" whose entire structure is designed to generate a volume of energy enough for the building consume. To embrace as much sunshine as possible, the building’s rooftop is sloped 20 degrees facing the south, and is installed with solar panels and ventilation tower. The complex self-sustains energy by proactively producing renewable energy, including photovoltaic and geothermal energy, going beyond minimizing energy consumption.

Buildings account for 20 percent of all energy consumption in Korea. If current trends continue, they are projected to take up 40 percent of energy use sooner than later. A building is kept for at least 30 years. If a building is constructed as a zero-energy building, it is highly effective in saving energy. The U.S., the U.K., and Germany set national targets to achieve zero-energy building goals and are providing financial assistance and promoting technology development in order to gain the upper hand in the construction market of the future. The European Union aims to build new buildings as zero-energy buildings while the U.S. aims to transform federal buildings into zero-energy buildings by 2020.

President Park Geun-hye showed interest in zero-energy buildings when visiting Germany in March this year. She was debriefed on such buildings by officials at the Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems IKTS, a think tank on advanced ceramics located in Dresden. Since then, the president said, “It is a revolutionary technology that will enable us immune to the impact of climate change and energy depletion,” in instructing her administration to find a way to commercialize it. Considering that she never switched on the air-conditioner when Korea was experiencing severe power shortage in summer last year, Park would have naturally developed keen interest in the technology because a zero-energy building not only helps save energy but also advance technology.

The Korean construction industry is still lukewarm about zero-energy buildings however. Zero-energy buildings cost 30 percent more to construct than ordinary buildings, but the government does not provide any subsidy or tax benefits. In advanced countries, such buildings can more than offset the construction cost within several years even though the initial construction cost is high. In countries such as Korea where electricity is cheap, however, builders don’t feel the need to construct zero-energy buildings. The Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry has devised measures to ease construction regulations and provide tax benefits in a bid to commercialize zero-energy buildings, but what is more important than these measures would be to adjust the electric utility rate to the practical level.

Chung Sung-hee (shchung@donga.com)