Opinion pieces

Revision of the Buildings Directive: Fit for the Future

Later this year, the Commission will launch its revision of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) to bring it in line with our climate obligations. This is the moment for us to improve and develop building regulations that will make our homes less energy intensive and safer for our citizens. Any revision of the EPBD needs to be socially and environmentally just. The EU must reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 65% by 2030 to be in line with the Paris Agreement’s climate goal.

There are many policy instruments that we can implement which would lead to a significant improvement of our building stock. In several Member States, we have seen the positive effect of Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS) with social safeguards in phasing out the worst performing buildings. Minimum Energy Performance Standards require buildings to meet a predefined minimum energy performance standard, set for example in terms of an energy rating, which must be reached by a specified date or at a certain moment in the life of the building. MEPS can ensure that the worst-performing buildings are upgraded and can help get the EU building stock on a trajectory towards climate neutrality. They can support the alleviation of energy poverty, by reducing energy bills for healthy and more comfortable homes, if accompanied with adequate social safeguards to help ensure the affordability of housing.

MEPS should be accompanied by other tools like building renovation passports, which act like a building’s long-term roadmap that can be used to plan deep renovations, collate all relevant building information, and provide an up-to-date image of a building’s lifespan. This can help us track a building’s energy performance and gradually improve its energy efficiency rating. I believe we can create a role within the EPBD for these tools so that we phase our worst performing buildings and gradually improve the living standards for people at risk of energy poverty.

As an architect, I understand the importance of a building’s infrastructure to its overall energy performance.  I know we can use the revision of the EPBD as a vehicle to drive the decarbonisation of buildings, specifically, the heating and cooling of buildings.

The EU’s Clean Energy Package shows us how local communities can work together and gather financial and technical assistance for their mutual  benefit. These communities act as one-stop-shops and have huge potential in accelerating the energy transition at a local level. If we apply this example to building renovations, it would allow local authorities and communities to decide the best way to bring their buildings in in line with our climate goals. The roll out of these one-stop-shops would allow us to empower local communities to shape not only their own energy transition but also improve their mobility and social infrastructure.

Commission President von der Leyen recently proposed including the building sector into a new ETS. This will set a price for pollution, but as citizens still need to heat or cool their homes, it is likely that vulnerable groups and those in energy poverty will be hardest hit by such policies. Due to the complex nature of the building sector, geographical differences and social sensitivities, an ETS price will be difficult to set. The effects of this policy will not be seen before 2030 but we know that direct energy efficiency measures are less costly for citizens, and have the advantage of achieving the same or better results and thus are more suitable to reach the goal of reducing emissions from buildings. Deep renovations and minimum energy performance standards can be designed so to provide targeted solutions to vulnerable groups.  These measures would bring local and sustainable jobs that we urgently need in the pandemic recovery efforts. They would also bring concrete benefits for citizens in the form of more comfortable homes and lower energy bills.

Looking toward the revision of the EPBD, we must ensure that our buildings are healthy, safe, and secure for all citizens and the environment. If we are as ambitious in implementing the Green Deal and the Renovation Wave as we were in drafting it, then we can tackle climate change, energy poverty, and the negative economic effects of Covid. It is now up to the European Institutions and the Member States to ensure that Europe reaps the benefits of increased renovations and energy efficient buildings. If we work together on European, national, and local levels, we can make sure that this is a success for all.


June 9, 2021

cover image

By clicking “Accept”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyse site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts. View our Privacy Policy for more information.