South Korea Sustainability Strategy

Working with Korea Economics Energy Institute, Okana assisted South Korea in learning from European knowledge and experience on sustainability and energy efficiency measures.

  • Korea Energy Economics Institute

  • Ulsan, South Korea

A busy street with cars driving by, surrounded by modern glass and concrete buildings, with a South Korean flag flying in the foreground.

With 60% of South Korea’s buildings built over 20 years ago, its government is especially aware that there are huge energy efficiencies to be made through retrofitting. Korea Energy Economics Institute (KEEI) is a government-affiliated research institute charged with staying ahead of national and global energy industry advances. It continues to build a substantial knowledge base aimed at preserving the environment while enhancing energy security through improved efficiency. KEEI is not content just building on existing knowledge, it wants to establish a position as a world expert.

Working with KEEI, Building Research Solutions (BRS), now Okana, assisted South Korea in learning from European knowledge and experience on sustainability measures and retrofitting to achieve energy efficiency. KEEI was keen to learn from Scotland, who are aiming to achieve carbon neutrality by 2045, five years ahead of the UK target. It already has mechanisms and policies in place to improve energy efficiency across residential buildings. Globally, residential energy consumption accounts for around one-third of the world’s primary energy demand.

The team had previously worked with Scottish public body, Historic Environment Scotland, on numerous retrofit and refurbishment case studies, alongside multiple technical papers. While working with KEEI, the team was also working with Zero Waste Scotland (ZWS) on the Scottish Public Sector Energy Benchmarking Tool (SPSEBT). This provided a comprehensive set of Scotland-specific energy benchmarks for public sector buildings. ZWS is a not-for-profit environmental organisation funded by Scottish Government.

More widely, the UK had been actively cooperating with the Danish government on building energy efficiency. Denmark, at this time, had 16 government-to-government energy collaborations which accounted for more than 60% of the world’s CO2 emissions

These policies and international synergies were among those analysed by the team to provide insights into improving South Korea’s own efficiency. This joint research project also collated current key international literature as well as more wider international retrofitting thinking. The research included a study of South Korean residential building archetypes and their differing construction techniques and demands. Not least the local requirement to regulate indoor humidity. What had worked in other locations was mapped onto local possibilities. The report outlined opportunities including locally grown natural fibre insulation materials.

The project included providing extrapolated energy consumption data drawn from UK domestic dwellings. These were compared with those retrofitted with energy efficiency measures including heat pumps and solar panels. Side by side they illustrated the potential gains for South Korea and allowed local researchers to apply to their comprehensive datasets. 

Beyond the shared technical information, the research allowed KEEI to gauge not only the size of the task in hand, it also highlighted potential global and domestic partnerships as well as savings and commercial opportunities.

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