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Towards zero-emission building stock by 2050 – what is the progress so far?

Improving the energy performance of buildings is one of the most important measures for supporting the global collective effort to reduce CO2 emissions…



Improving the energy performance of buildings is one of the most important measures for supporting the global collective effort to reduce CO2 emissions and energy costs.

Credit: Andrea Ferrantelli, Postdoctoral Researcher at the Department of Civil Engineering and Architecture (Tallinn University of Technology) and at Department of Civil Engineering (Aalto University)

Improving the energy performance of buildings is one of the most important measures for supporting the global collective effort to reduce CO2 emissions and energy costs.

A recent study by Estonian researchers has revealed a positive message for Estonia: the energy performance measures we have taken to date have largely been effective in ensuring sufficient progress towards achieving a carbon-neutral building stock by 2050. Estonia has been particularly successful in the renovation of apartment buildings, with a complete renovation funding scheme that could serve as a model for all of Europe. This was the conclusion reached by researchers Martin Thalfeldt, Juri Belikov, Jarek Kurnitski, Eduard Petlenkov, and Andrea Ferrantelli from Tallinn University of Technology in a research paper published in IEEE Access.

New scales will bring a change

However, this was not found to be the case for all buildings. ‘The one exception is single family houses of less than 220 m² (2,368 square feet), which are subject to less stringent energy performance requirements, and for which renovation grants are still offered on a relatively limited scale,’ noted Martin Thalfeldt, assistant professor in the research group on nearly zero-energy buildings. This means that if Estonia wants to reach the target, it will need to continue to gradually tighten the energy performance requirements for new buildings, and ensure that measures are in place to encourage the complete renovation of buildings. Single family houses, where there has currently been no significant progress made, need to be given greater attention.

At present, researchers believe that we have reached a point where the best energy performance class A is also the minimum requirement for new buildings, and there is no class on the energy performance scale to strive for in more ambitious projects. Fortunately, the latest amendments to the European Union’s Energy Performance of Buildings Directive call for the further development of energy performance scales for buildings. ‘The new scales should evenly cover the entire building stock, with zero-emission buildings at one end, and the 15% of poorest-performing buildings in the lowest energy performance class G, at the other. Our research allows these scales to be easily developed for Estonia, and to identify the part of the building stock that should be renovated as a matter of priority,’ Thalfeldt explained. Fellow member of the research team, Juri Belikov, stated that the most interesting part for him was the insignificant impact of COVID-19 on the results, which included comparison with the previous year, and after 2020. This issue is also explored separately in the paper.

In-depth analysis was made possible by the Register of Buildings

An analysis of this scale was made possible for the first time thanks to the extensive database of the Estonian Building Registry, even though the study only covered buildings for which an energy performance certificate has been issued.
The difficulty of obtaining information on existing buildings is a major problem, as the available data are often limited to total annual consumption.

‘Unfortunately, there are a lot of buildings in Estonia for which we do not have an overview of the energy consumption,’ admitted Thalfeldt, who added that their research was part of the DigiAudit pilot project of TalTech’s competence centre for smart cities. The objective of the project is to develop methods for the automatic evaluation of the energy use of buildings. The research enables the energy use of any building to be automatically evaluated in comparison with other buildings of the same type. If reliable information on buildings and continuously updated energy consumption data could be collected in a common database, the methods developed would allow for the automatic calculation of energy performance ratings, and the monitoring of progress towards energy performance targets.

Running account – how far are we from the target?

DigiAudit’s project partners include Estonia’s largest cities Tallinn and Tartu, both of which are not just aiming to achieve carbon-neutral building stock, but also to become climate-neutral cities by 2050. In addition, the campus buildings of TalTech are also participating in the project.

‘We are additionally in contact with the Estonian Ministry of Economic Affairs to ensure that the methods developed in the DigiAudit project will also be applied on a larger, national scale,’ stated Thalfeldt, who claimed that the longer-term goal is to achieve a so-called running account of progress towards the targets for improving the energy performance of the building stock.

An intriguing challenge

But where does the 2050 target come from? The European Green Deal was strengthened at the end of 2021, when the European Commission decided to undertake a major revision of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD). The aim was to speed up the renovation of buildings, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption, and promote the use of renewable energy in buildings.

As a result, the European Union is introducing a new definition of a ‘zero-emission building’ (ZEB), applicable to new public buildings from 2027, and for all new buildings from 2030. Existing buildings are expected to be converted into zero-emission buildings to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 at the latest. This will require around a 2% yearly deep renovation rate, and a reliable evaluation of the energy performance of buildings is needed to develop measures to maintain an adequate pace of progress.

Key findings of the research

The most important result of the work conducted by the Estonian research team, which will help to monitor the decarbonisation of the Estonian building stock by 2050, can be summarised as follows: the researchers evaluated, by building type, how the energy performance of buildings has changed over time, and how progress has been made towards carbon neutrality; and formulated proposals and recommendations for the development of new energy performance scales. On the practical side, the energy performance benchmarking tables can be immediately implemented by building type to evaluate the energy performance of individual buildings in comparison to other similar buildings.

The researchers investigated in detail the energy performance certificates uploaded to the Register of Buildings, including the creation of a more orderly dataset. In the third section, the results are presented in thematic subsections, which include, for example, the time trend of energy performance classes, the impact of renovation incentives, benchmarking tables, and correlations with construction year and heated area.

As a natural extension of the study, new energy performance scales are planned to be developed for Estonia in line with the recently published recommendations by the European Commission. Furthermore, it is possible to identify the part of the building stock that needs to be renovated as a matter of priority, in order to leave only a negligible proportion of buildings in energy performance class G by 2030.

Leading academics and policy experts will discuss how buildings can be an important element in reaching the goals of European strategies such as the Green Deal and Fit for 55 through renovation wave, Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) revision, New European Bauhaus, Construct Product Regulation (CPR) revision and REPowerEU. The seminar specifically focuses on research needs and research-based solutions, including people-centric and resilience aspects, ideally addressed at – along with improving – energy performance and indoor climate, renewable energy use, and the energy flexibility of buildings. These solutions should support the efficiency-first principle, but also have to consider many new elements when implementing the existing building stock’s transition towards zero-emission buildings.

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Canon’s new technology competes with ASML in chip manufacturing

The new system, FPA-1200NZ2C, can produce 5 nanometer semiconductors and scale down to 2 nm, surpassing the capabilities of the A17 Pro chip found in Apple’s…



The new system, FPA-1200NZ2C, can produce 5 nanometer semiconductors and scale down to 2 nm, surpassing the capabilities of the A17 Pro chip found in Apple’s iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max.

Canon, the Japanese company known for its printers and cameras, unveiled an innovative solution on Friday, Oct. 13,  which is designed to aid in the production of cutting-edge semiconductor components.

According to a report from CNBC, Canon’s recently introduced “nanoimprint lithography” system represents the company’s competitive response to Dutch firm ASML, a dominant force in the extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography machine sector. ASML’s machinery is essential for producing cutting-edge chips, including those used in the latest Apple iPhones.

The utilization of these machines has been drawn into the technological conflict between the United States and China. The United States, employing export restrictions and diverse sanctions, has aimed to obstruct China's access to crucial chips and manufacturing machinery, hampering the progress of the world's second-largest economy in a field where it is already perceived as lagging.

ASML's EUV technology has gained significant traction among leading chip manufacturers due to its crucial role in enabling the production of semiconductors at 5 nanometers and below. This nanometer measurement pertains to the size of chip features, with smaller values accommodating more features on a chip, consequently enhancing semiconductor performance.

Canon reportedly announced that its new system, the FPA-1200NZ2C, can produce semiconductors matching a 5nm process and scale down to 2nm, surpassing the capabilities of the A17 Pro chip found in Apple's iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max, which is a 3nm semiconductor.

The Dutch government has imposed restrictions on ASML, preventing the export of its EUV lithography machines to China, where no units have been shipped. This limitation exists due to the critical role of these machines in the production of cutting-edge semiconductor chips.

With Canon's assertion that their new machine can facilitate the production of semiconductors equivalent to 2nm, it is likely to face increased scrutiny.

Related: Google to protect users in AI copyright accusations

Cointelegraph reported earlier that the Biden administration is targeting a loophole that has allowed developers in China to purchase chips from the infamous Huaqiangbei electronics area in Shenzhen, a city in southern China.

However, China has released draft security regulations for companies providing generative artificial intelligence (AI) services, encompassing restrictions on data sources used for AI model training.

Magazine: ‘AI has killed the industry’: EasyTranslate boss on adapting to change

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How the ‘laws of war’ apply to the conflict between Israel and Hamas

A scholar of the laws of war explores the complex issues raised by Israeli bombing of Gaza in retaliation for the slaughter of its citizens.



Warring parties are duty-bound to minimize civilian casualties. Ahmad Hasaballah/Getty Images

The killing of Israeli civilians by Hamas and retaliatory airstrikes on the densely populated Gaza Strip by Israel raises numerous issues under international law.

Indeed, President Joe Biden made express reference to the “laws of war” in comments he made at the White house on Oct. 10, 2023, noting that while democracies like the U.S. and Israel uphold such standards, “terrorists” such as Hamas “purposefully target civilians.” Speaking the same day, the European Union’s top diplomat Josep Borrell condemned Hamas’ attack but also suggested that Israel was not acting in accordance with international law by cutting water, electricity and food to civilians in Gaza.

But international law and the very nature of the conflict itself – along with the status of the two sides involved – is a complex area. The Conversation turned to Robert Goldman, an expert on the laws of war at American University Washington College of Law, for guidance on some of the issues.

What are the ‘laws of war’?

The laws of war, also known as International Humanitarian Law (IHL), consist of the four 1949 Geneva Conventions, their two Additional Protocols of 1977, the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907, as well as certain weapons conventions.

Simply put, these instruments seek to spare civilians and others who are no longer active combatants from the effects of hostilities by placing restrictions and prohibitions on the conduct of warfare.

It is important to understand that modern IHL is not concerned with the reasons for, or the legality of, going to war. Rather, that is governed by the United Nations Charter and member state’s own practice.

It is also important to note that violations of the laws of war are notoriously hard to prosecute and can be frustrated by lack of cooperation by the parties involved.

What is the nature of the conflict between Israel and Hamas?

The answer to this question is by no means clear.

Many humanitarian law experts would argue that Hamas and Israel are engaged in what is known as a “non-international armed conflict.” In other words, it would be classified the same way as a civil war that pits the armed forces of a state against an armed non-state actor, rather than a international conflict between two or more sovereign states.

If that were the case, the conflict would not be governed by the entirety of the laws of war, but instead by the more limited Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions along with numerous customary law rules, which derive from general practices accepted as law. Common Article 3, which applies to civilians and those no longer fighting, prohibits practices such as torture, summary execution and denial of a fair trial. But Prisoner of War status only applies to conflicts between states, so would not apply.

But some international observers, including the United Nations, view Israel as, in effect, occupying Gaza – a view predicated on the fact that Israel controls Gaza’s borders and airspace and it supplies most of its electricity.

If that is the case, then the recent outbreak of hostilities between Hamas and Israel would trigger the entirety of laws of war.

That said, I do not believe that Israel is an occupying power in Gaza under a strict reading of the law. This is because Israel ceased governing and pulled its forces out of Gaza in 2005. Since 2007, Hamas, after expelling the Palestinian Authority, has in effect governed Gaza.

Is the bombing of Gaza illegal under international law?

Today the rules governing the conduct of hostilities in both international and non-international armed conflicts are essentially the same.

The foremost requirement in all conflicts is that combatants must always distinguish between civilians and combatants, and that attacks can only be directed at combatants and other military targets.

Protecting civilian populations caught in warfare essentially depends upon three factors:

  1. Civilians must abstain from fighting;
  2. The party in control of the civilian population must not place them at heightened risk of harm by using them as human shields; and
  3. The attacking force must take precautions to avoid or minimize excessive civilian casualties when attacking lawful targets.

Not only are civilians in Gaza not lawful targets, they are also protected under IHL by the rule of proportionality. This rule prohibits an attack against a military target which foreseeably could cause civilian casualties that are excessive, or disproportionate in relation to the advantage anticipated from the target’s destruction.

In the case of Gaza, this rule requires that before launching an attack, the Israeli military analyze and determine the likely effect on civilians. If it appears that such an attack will cause disproportionate civilian casualties, then it must be suspended or canceled.

Given Gaza’s urban density, it will be extremely difficult for the Israelis to avoid substantial civilian casualties even when using precision weapons.

And this task will be nearly impossible if Hamas, as it has consistently done in the past, uses it civilians and now hostages to shield military targets.

While Israel bears primary responsibility to avoid excessive civilian deaths in its bombardment of Gaza, Hamas’ ability to claim the bombardment constitutes a war crime would be weakened if it deliberately places its own people in harms way.

And while Israel is complying with its duty to give an advanced warning of an attack in north Gaza, the problem remains: Where do 1 million people go to seek safety when borders are closed and military targets are being hit throughout Gaza?

Is Israel’s siege of Gaza illegal?

Unlike in the past, total siege warfare now is unlawful regardless of whether the warring parties are involved in international or non-international hostilities.

Blocking the entry of all food, water, medicines and cutting off electricity – as appears to be happening in Gaza – will disproportionately affect civilians, foreseeably leading to their starvation. This is a banned method of warfare under customary and conventional IHL.

No matter how horrific the actions of Hamas, IHL does not permit an aggrieved party to respond in kind. Violation of the law by one party cannot, in principle, justify or sanction actions by the other that violate established prohibitions in international humanitarian law.

What are the status and obligations of Hamas under IHL?

IHL rules apply equally to all the warring parties irrespective of the nature of the conflict. This means that Israeli and Hamas combatants have the same rights and duties.

If, however, the conflict is non-international, then Hamas will be regarded as an armed non-state actor and its combatants ineligible for Prisoner of War status upon capture. Accordingly, Israel can try them for all their hostile acts whether or not Hamas complies with the laws of war.

Masked men in black hold aloft rifles.
Masked militants from the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, a military wing of Hamas. AP Photo/Adel Hana

But even if the conflict is an international one, then Hamas’s fighters would still be debarred from Prisoner of War status. They are not the armed forces of Palestine – which is recognized as a state by 138 nations and has the Palestine Authority as its government.

Rather, Hamas combatants are an irregular armed group. To be eligible for Prisoner of War status under Article 4A(2) of the Third Geneva Convention, members of an irregular armed group must adhere to very strict standards, both collectively and individually. These includes distinguishing themselves from civilians and complying with the laws of war. Manifestly Hamas has not and do not meet these standards. As such, Israel could lawfully deny them Prisoner of War status upon capture.

Israel, the U.S. and others label Hamas fighters as terrorists. Hamas’s recent acts – indiscriminately firing thousands of rockets into Israel, targeting, killing and taking civilians as hostages – are acts of terrorism in warfare and qualify as war crimes.

Robert Goldman does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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China’s AI ‘Blacklist’ To Google’s Chatbot Fumble: A Round-Up Of The Week’s Top AI News

It’s been a week of revelations in the tech world, with China proposing a blacklist to regulate AI, to chatbots from Google and Microsoft showing their…



It’s been a week of revelations in the tech world, with China proposing a blacklist to regulate AI, to chatbots from Google and Microsoft showing their limitations. We also saw Nvidia’s stock predicted to make significant gains, and OpenAI’s CEO Sam Altman made a couple of intriguing statements on artificial intelligence.

China Proposes ‘Blacklist’ For AI Training Data

China has taken a step towards regulating its AI industry by proposing a blacklist of sources that cannot be used for training generative AI models. This includes censored content from the Chinese internet. The proposal was published by China’s National Information Security Standardization Committee, which includes officials from the Cyberspace Administration of China, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, and the police. Read the full article here.

Google, Microsoft Chatbots Misfire on Israel-Hamas Conflict News

In a recent experiment, chatbots from Google GOOG and Microsoft Corporation MSFT incorrectly reported a ceasefire in the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict. While the chatbots often provided balanced responses and decent news summaries, they also produced glaring errors, raising questions about their credibility and potential to contribute to public confusion during rapidly evolving and complex conflicts. Read the full article here.

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ChatGPT Chief Sam Altman’s ‘Internet Troll Streak’

Sam Altman, the chief of ChatGPT and boss of Microsoft-backed OpenAI, admitted on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast that he has an “internet troll streak.” Altman spoke on a wide range of topics, including AI, ChatGPT, and how a future version of GPT could display the word soup of our inner thoughts. Read the full article here.

Nvidia’s Shares Predicted to Rise by 50%

Analysts at TD Cowen believe that the Nvidia Corporation NVDA stock still has significant growth potential, following a revision of their price target on the semiconductor firm. The team led by Matthew Ramsay upheld their Outperform rating on Nvidia and escalated their price target to $700 from the previously projected $600. Read the full article here.

Future AI Could Display ‘Word Soup’ of Your Thoughts

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman believes that there will be a neural device that will be able to display words as you think them and communicate telepathically. Altman believes neural devices will leverage advancements in artificial intelligence to visualize the thoughts of people. Read the full article here.

The post China’s AI ‘Blacklist’ To Google’s Chatbot Fumble: A Round-Up Of The Week’s Top AI News appeared first on The Dales Report.

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