Climate | ~ 4 min read

Laying the foundations for green construction

Targeting zero emissions from EU building stock by 2050 is the bold ambition of a new directive. Achievable? Or will it hit a brick wall?

Reducing emissions from buildings is an important climate goal for the European Union (EU). This was highlighted recently by the European Parliament and European Council adopting the revised Energy Performance of Buildings Directive. The aim is to reduce emissions in the building sector from new properties and, notably, by renovating older buildings to meet new standards.

The construction sector is a strategic target for achieving net zero by 2050 because buildings account for approximately a third of total EU emissions. However, the requirements of this directive have caused intense debate between EU countries, the EU Parliament, non-governmental organisations and the construction industry. Finally, in April, the majority of EU countries1 voted to implement the new rule.

Renovation rules

Once the published text of the regulation is transposed to member states’ law, each country must produce a construction sector decarbonisation strategy by 2026 to include specific plans for renovation and development. This includes ensuring that every new building in the EU will be carbon neutral by 2030.

Key to achieving this goal is addressing the energy efficiency and clean energy source for new buildings by phasing out fossil fuel heating and introducing mandatory solar panels on roofs for most non-residential buildings. Other measures include charging stations for electric vehicles to limit reliance on household vehicle charging and bicycle parking facilities to encourage emissions-free transport.

The ultimate target is zero emissions from EU building stock by 2050, a very ambitious goal given the age of the existing residential properties. Around 35% of EU residential buildings were constructed pre-1960, with this amount varying by country, from 10% of buildings in Estonia to 45% in Denmark.

Industry impact

These new rules represent minimum standards and, with each country required to develop their 2050 building decarbonisation roadmap by 2026, we expect a significant impact on the European construction and property sector. The transition will need more sustainable construction materials and techniques, as well as the necessary skilled workforce. Additionally, buildings could become “material banks”, where materials are earmarked for reuse in future projects.

The EU has a budget to support building renovation, but further investment is needed which varies from country to country. However, the potential for energy cost savings and lower construction costs alongside achieving climate goals points to decarbonising construction as an attractive proposition.

Read more about sustainable transition in the property sector: Biodiversity gains ground

1 Hungary and Italy voted against the directive while Croatia, the Czech Republic, Sweden, Slovenia, and Poland abstained from voting.

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