Innovation gaps in buildings


Transitioning to high-performance buildings by 2030 will require technical innovation to meet the energy needs of a variety of building types in multiple regions. Innovation is particularly needed to raise investment returns for high-performance building envelope technologies, taking energy prices, labour costs and the nature of the building design or retrofits into account.

Accelerating energy efficiency of mobile networks

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4G networks Readiness level:

5G networks Readiness level:

Advanced air flow, air sealing and ventilation controls

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Advanced ventilation Readiness level:

Passive solutions Readiness level:

Advanced windows

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Advanced windows Readiness level:

Applying artificial intelligence in data centres

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AI for data centre infrastructure management Readiness level:

AI for resource management Readiness level:

Development of vacuum-insulated panels and insulating materials for refrigeration.

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Vacuum-insulated panels for refrigeration Readiness level:

Enhance heat pump flexibility

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Heat pump connectivity Readiness level:

Fully integrated solar PV cooling solutions

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Coupling solar PV production and AC units Readiness level:

Adapt cooling production to solar resource variability Readiness level:

Integrate thermal storage and other demand-side management tools Readiness level:

High cost of heat pumps in tumble dryers

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Heat pump-integrated tumble dryers Readiness level:

Integrated storage and renewable energy technologies for buildings

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Sensible storage (solar thermal) Readiness level:

Sensible storage (district heating) Readiness level:

Latent storage (phase-change materials) Readiness level:

Thermochemical storage (sorption) Readiness level:

Raise heat pump attractiveness

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Climate and Comfort Box Readiness level:

High-performance heat pumps Readiness level:

Reduce costs of geothermal heat pump technologies

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Geothermal heat pumps Readiness level:

Reducing the costs of solar thermal cooling

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Reducing the costs of solar thermal cooling Readiness level:

Research needs into potential for liquid desiccant cooling

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High-efficiency regenerating components Readiness level:

Design optimization of liquid desiccant cooling components Readiness level:


Improving AC energy efficiency will be critical to weaken cooling demand growth. While improving the efficiency of vapour compression technology is a priority, other high-efficiency solutions can also reduce the energy and environmental footprint of cooling.

Among the potential technologies, liquid desiccant evaporative cooling is an option that requires additional R&D to better understand its performance and the design requirements needed to support deployment.

Innovation gaps

Appliances & equipment

Technology already exists and is readily available to improve the energy efficiency of appliances and equipment. Conventional policy measures can be employed to drive markets to adopt these more efficient technologies and put appliances and equipment on track with the SDS.

Innovation remains important to achieve mass deployment of products with even higher efficiency. Technology improvements include vacuum-insulated panels for refrigerators, heat pump technology for tumble dryers and improved silicon for electronic equipment. Innovation will also be required to continue reducing the cost of manufacturing equipment while improving energy efficiency and related performance. Furthermore, to take advantage of digitalisation benefits, consumer-friendly energy management tools are needed for smart appliances and equipment.

Innovation gaps

Heat pumps

Heat pumping technologies for space heating already exist and will deliver significant efficiency improvements and considerable CO2 emissions reductions in many countries.

Innovation could help to address some known market issues, including high upfront prices and a lack of adaptability to multiple building contexts (e.g. multi-family residential buildings with limited outdoor space for exterior heat pump units). While packaging products can increase marketability, multiple synergies with other energy technologies such as solar PV and district heating networks could also be exploited to enhance system flexibility and efficiency.

Innovation gaps

Data centres & networks

Demand for data centre and data transmission network services is expected to continue to grow strongly over the next decade. Innovation will be critical to ensuring that energy efficiency gains continue to keep overall energy demand in check.

Innovation gaps

Building envelopes

Boosting construction of high-performance buildings by 2030 will require innovative technical solutions and business models to meet the energy needs of a variety of building types in multiple regions. Innovation is also needed to improve investment returns for high-performance building technologies, taking energy prices, labour costs and the nature of the building design or retrofits into account.

Innovation gaps


Although the shift to solid-state lighting (SSL) products is gaining momentum, LED technologies have not yet reached maturity. There are still innovation gaps that make it challenging to continue improving the efficacy of LEDs (to exceed 160 lm/W by 2030), develop the best regulation metrics (with respect to energy performance and light quality), and ensure that smart lamps and luminaires generate energy savings.

Innovation gaps


Shifting buildings towards high-efficiency and renewable heat technologies, a key priority to achieve the SDS and decarbonise the buildings sector, requires better system integration and flexibility.

Building integrated thermal storage can optimise the use of renewable heat, enhancing synergies among sectors and networks. Yet, thermal storage technology is far from reaching its full potential in terms of cost, sizing and other physical and operational constraints.

Innovation gaps