There are many things the COVID–19 pandemic has brought to the surface regarding our everyday life. One of them is definitely how we use buildings. Having converted our homes to offices, schools, entertainment spaces, and even makeshift gyms, we are suddenly acutely aware of the key role that buildings play in our lives.
This awareness has also come with another realisation…how many people have suddenly noticed their utility bills and realized that their building is not energy efficient in the slightest? I would guess quite a few.
According to the European Commission, roughly 75 percent of the building stock is energy inefficient.
That is exactly what the European Union (EU) Renovation Wave Strategy addresses. The strategy, which was announced in October, is putting buildings at the center of climate action by prioritising the sustainable construction of new buildings and supporting the green renovation of older ones.
The goal is to double annual energy renovation rates across the EU in the next ten years.
You may be wondering, how will this be achieved?
Well, let us first answer: what exactly is the Renovation Wave?
The Renovation Wave is a strategy that focuses on three key areas: the decarbonisation of heating and cooling systems within buildings, decreasing energy poverty across the EU and reforming public buildings.
Policies within the strategy include:
· Introducing stronger requirements to obtain Energy Performance Certificates for new buildings.
· Compulsory minimum energy performance standards for existing buildings.
· The development of well-targeted funding, including private funding, to support energy efficiency improvements for the existing building stock.
· Bringing closer regional, local and national authorities to create a technical assistance program to implement projects and increase the capacity to carry out more renovation works.
· Encouraging sustainable renovation efforts to focus on smart buildings features such as the integration of renewable energy and/or assessing actual energy consumption.
· Building capacity within the construction ecosystem to enable the implementation of sustainable renovation, including features such as circular solutions, material reuse, use of sustainable materials, nature-based solutions and recovery targets.
· Tackling energy poverty and access to healthy housing for all, addressing especially people with disabilities and older people.
· Boosting the decarbonisation of heating and cooling through the implementation and further expansion of eco-design and labelling measures.
What is particularly exciting to see is the recognition that energy efficiency supports several of the EU’s priorities: it reduces greenhouse gas emissions, it improves the quality of life for EU residents by reducing utility bills, and it creates jobs and kickstarts local economies through the construction industry.
The Renovation Wave is the perfect example of how green buildings bring value for all segments of society and pave the journey to a sustainable future.
And it doesn’t end there. We also found some other hidden gems in the Renovation Wave strategy that also deserve to be highlighted.
For example, the EU has included a plan to create a roadmap for reducing whole life-cycle carbon emissions in buildings by 2023. This is a critical component of the journey to net zero, as the embodied carbon within buildings plays a significant role in the carbon footprint of a building and is currently not included in net zero assessments.
The EU is also supporting gender equality within the broader building sector and reviewing the role of women in the construction sector. There are several proposed initiatives within the strategy to increase the number of women in construction, and to improve the diversity of their roles within the broader ecosystem, something which is needed.
The Renovation Wave is a great step towards a climate-neutral EU. It is the first international strategy to put buildings and renovation at the forefront of climate action, and to present it in a way that brings value to the entire society.
For the EU to meet the goal of net–zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, it needs to focus on its building stock, especially considering that around 40% of energy consumption in the EU comes from buildings.
There are still challenges ahead with the implementation, and the question of financing will continue to play a role until clear programs are set up, but the Renovation Wave strategy presents a tangible pathway forward to actually reach the EU’s net zero goal.
The only way to a more sustainable future and a climate neutral Europe is together, and this strategy is something that unite the entire construction and real estate industry.