European new regulations: approaching the EU construction law

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New Commission’s proposals include possible scenarios towards more resilient, greener and digital construction systems in the member states. The whole measures seemed to turn the sectoral regulations into a specific EU’s “construction law”. Hence, the member states’ governments, industry, science communities are going to adapt to a new strategy for the European construction sectors’ future.

Buildings and all sorts of construction works are one of the largest sources of energy consumption in the member states. Therefore the EU’s construction policy is aimed at boosting energy efficiency in buildings, reducing emissions and people’s vulnerability to energy prices, while tackling energy poverty and supporting socio-economic recovery and employment.

Short history
Historically, the EU’s “renovation strategy” was revealed to the states in mid- October 2020 by setting out measures aimed at doubling the speed of annual energy renovation rate by 2030. The strategy was based on the fact that “investing in buildings can inject a much-needed stimulus into the construction sector and the macro-economy”.
Besides, renovation works are labour-intensive, they create jobs and investments, generate demand for highly energy-efficient equipment, increase climate resilience and bring long-term value to properties. To achieve at least 55% emissions reduction target for 2030 (proposed in September 2020), the member states have to reduce buildings’ greenhouse gas emissions by 60%, their energy consumption by 14%, and the energy consumption of heating and cooling by 18%. More on renovation strategy:

Another step in renovation was the revision of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive as an essential element of the “renovation strategy” with the aim of upgrading the existing regulatory framework in order to reflect pressing needs in climate and sustainability actions while providing the states with the flexibility in adapting to existing differences in the building stock across the EU-27. More in the directive’s draft at:

The revision of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive is part of the Commission’s “Fit for 55” proposals to deliver on the European Green Deal and the European Climate Law. It complements the other components of the package adopted in July 2021, setting the vision for achieving a zero-emission building stock by 2050. It is a key legislative instrument to achieve the 2030 and 2050 decarbonisation objectives: buildings account for 40% of energy consumed in the EU and 36% of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions; heating, cooling and domestic hot water are responsible for 80% of the energy that households consume.
On the EU’s “climate law’ in:

New requirements in construction sector
Reducing emission from new and existing buildings is vital in deliver on the EU’s 2030 and 2050 decarbonisation objectives; achieving these goals requires additional legislative measures aimed at less energy use in buildings use (by reducing fossil fuel and the cost of carbon in national energy mix) and providing financial support for investments in renovation.
Revision of existing system is subject to agreement with the states concerning the new emissions trading system (ETS) for buildings and road transport as well as on the Social Climate Fund proposed in the “fit for 55” package presented in July 2021 (depicting the target of reducing net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels).

By 2030, 35 million buildings should be renovated; with this initiative, up to 160,000 additional green jobs shall be created only in the construction sector. Buildings are responsible for about 40% of the EU’s energy consumption and about 36% of greenhouse gas emissions from energy use. However, presently only 1% of buildings in the EU states undergo energy efficient renovation every year: therefore effective actions are required in the states to assist the EU’s goal of being climate-neutral by 2050. With nearly 34 million Europeans unable to afford keeping their homes heated, national public policies shall be aimed at promoting energy efficient renovation, to respond to energy poverty, support the health and wellbeing of people and help reduce their energy bills.
Another vital aspect in construction policy is alleviating energy poverty: there are more than 30 million building units in the EU-27 consuming excessive energy (at least 2.5 times more than average buildings) which drives up energy bills of households. The benefits of lower energy bills are even more relevant in the current context of high energy prices. People living in worst performing buildings and those facing energy poverty would benefit from renovated and better buildings, as well as from reduced energy costs, and be buffered from further market price increases and volatility. Hence, by increasing the renovation rate, the EU and states’ measures will be creating jobs, supporting innovation and increasing the number of businesses. However, the increased intensity of renovations is to be supported by adequate capacity and skilled workforce.

European approach to renovation
European Commission in a new proposal (18.xii.2021) intends to align the rules for the energy performance of buildings with the European Green Deal and decarbonise the EU’s building stock by 2050. This proposal will facilitate the renovation of homes, schools, hospitals, offices and other buildings in the EU-27 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and energy bills while improving quality of life. The revision of the energy performance of buildings goes in line with the Commission’s renovation wave strategy (October 2020) aimed at achieve at least 55% emissions reduction target for 2030; to achieve this goal, the member states must reduce buildings’ greenhouse gas emissions by 60%, their energy consumption by 14%, and the energy consumption of heating and cooling by 18%. On the Renovation strategy in:

Optimal energy performance of buildings aims to boost the rate of energy renovation on the EU states and suggests priority guidelines for the most cost-effective renovations for increased energy efficiency. Commissioner for Energy, Kadri Simson noted that buildings are the single largest energy consumer in Europe by 40% of energy and major source of GHG emissions with 36% because most buildings in the EU-27 are not energy efficient and are still mostly powered by fossil fuels. He underlined the necessity of urgent measures as over 85% of today’s buildings will still be standing in 2050, when Europe must be climate neutral.
Besides, improving residential houses is also an effective response to high energy prices: the worst-performing buildings in the EU states consume many times more energy as new or properly renovated ones. Thus, renovation reduces both the energy footprint of buildings and the energy costs for households, while also boosting economic activity and job creation.

Other suggested measures
The Commission proposes that as of 2030, all new buildings must be zero-emission; to increase and faster action in the public sector, all new public buildings must be zero-emission already as of 2027. This means that buildings must consume little energy, be powered by renewables as far as possible, emit no on-site carbon emissions from fossil fuels and must indicate their global warming potential based on their whole-life cycle emissions on their “energy performance certificate”.
As to renovations, new EU-level minimum energy performance standards are enforced requiring the worst-performing 15% of the building stock of each state to be upgraded from the Energy Performance Certificate’s Grade G to at least Grade F by 2027 for non-residential buildings and by 2030 for residential buildings. This initiative focuses on the lowest performing buildings and fulfils the twin objective: -maximising the potential for decarbonisation, and – alleviating energy poverty.

National buildings renovation plans, NBRP
The national plans shall be fully integrated into national energy and climate plans to ensure comparability and making closer connections in mobilising financing and triggering the needed reforms and investments. The NBRPs will include national roadmaps for phasing out fossil fuels in heating and cooling by 2040 at the latest, along with a pathway for transforming the national building stock into zero-emission buildings by 2050.
The NBRPs will introduce building’s “renovation passport” which provides owners with a tool to facilitate their planning and a step-by-step renovation towards zero-emissions level. The proposal defines “mortgage portfolio standards” as a mechanism to incentivise lenders to improve the buildings energy performance and encourage clients in making their properties more energy efficient.
The member states shall include renovation considerations into public and private financing rules in order to create appropriate instruments for low-income households: thus, as of 2027 no financial incentives should be given for the installation of fossil fuel boilers and the states could use the legal means to ban fossil fuel use in buildings.
New “energy performance certificates, EPCs” shall provide publicly available information about energy consumption in buildings as a vital guide to investment, buying, and rental decisions. With these certificates, it will be clearer to contain improved information on energy performance of such buildings that undergo major renovation, as well as with the renewed rental contracts for all public buildings. Buildings or building units which are offered for sale or rent must also have a certificate, and the energy performance class will be stated in all advertisements.
The EU Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS) are a system to require the renovation of the worst performing buildings in the EPCs’ classes G or F: the G rating corresponds to the 15% worst performing buildings in each country, with the remaining buildings in the country distributed proportionately among the other classes between G and A which corresponds to zero-emission buildings. In particular, public and non-residential buildings will have to be renovated and improved to at least energy performance level F at the latest by 2027 (and to at least level E by 2030 at the latest). Residential buildings should be renovated from G to at least F by 2030 and to at least E by 2033. The EU states must then establish specific timelines for achieving higher energy performance classes through new NBRPs, in line with their strategies to achieve zero-emission building stock by 2050.

Financial issues
The Commission is helping to mobilise the finance for the upfront investment costs for these units, with up to €150 billion from the EU budget available to implement the minimum energy performance standards, between now and 2030. Finance comes from several sources, including the European Regional and Development Fund, the Cohesion Fund and the Recovery and Resilience Facility, thanks in particular to the strong ‘Renovate’ flagships in national recovery and resilience plans. The proposed new Social Climate Fund will also mobilise €72.2 billion from the EU budget for the period 2025-2032 to support households, notably those living in worst performing buildings. To enable an efficient combination of public and private financing, the Commission is also working to make the State aid framework more conducive to the needs of the EU-wide minimum energy performance standards. National Building Renovation Plans must also ensure the deployment of sufficient funds and support, to provide national-level finance and help leverage private investment.

More information in the following web-links: – Q&A on the Energy Performance of Buildings; – Factsheet on the Energy Performance of Buildings; – Proposal for a Directive on the energy performance of buildings; – Annexes to the Proposal for a Directive on the energy performance of buildings; – Energy performance of buildings webpage; – Renovation Wave Strategy; – Renovation Wave webpage; – Staff Working Document with the analysis of the national long-term renovation strategies; – Long-Term Renovation Strategies webpage; -European Green Deal; – Staff Working Document on Sustainable Construction

The European Bauhaus project
Besides, the EU’s “renovation strategy”, a creation of New European Bauhaus, an interdisciplinary project with scientists, architects, designers, artists, planners and civil society will reveal a broad EU-wide participatory process in setting-up a network of five founding Bauhaus in 2022 in different EU countries.
Reference to:
The “European Bauhaus, EB” project is aimed at combining private and public efforts in modern society’s transformations: the EB translates the European Green Deal into a tangible, positive experience in which all European citizens can move toward progressive future by creating bridges between different national cultures and backgrounds, cutting across scientific disciplines and economic sectors.
The EB inspires a social movement to facilitate and steer socio-economic transformation in the member states along three inseparable values: a) sustainability (incl. climate goals, circularity, zero pollution, and biodiversity), b) aesthetics (incl. quality of experience and style, functionality and fashion), and c) inclusion (incl. valorization of diversity, securing accessibility and affordability). The new EB’s initiative approach is a multi-level one stretching from global to local, to participatory and to trans-disciplinary approaches.
Reference to:

Related web-links: Mobilising EU programmes for the transformation of places on the ground; Mobilising EU programmes for the transformation of the enabling environment for innovation; Mobilising EU programmes for the diffusion of new meanings; and The New European Bauhaus policy ecosystem.


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