How the EPBD impacts the building sector
The building sector is going through and will keep going through interesting changes with the constantly evolving legislative framework established by the EU around energy efficiency and carbon emissions.
The EPBD Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (2010/31/EU) is part of a legislative framework including the Energy Efficiency Directive (2012/27/EU), and was stablished to boost the energy performance of the European building sector, as it is the single largest energy consumer – buildings in Europe are responsible for almost 40% of the energy consumption and 36% of CO2 emissions.
Both the directives – the EPBD and the Energy Efficiency Directive – were amended, respectively in in 2018 and 2019, as part of what is called Clean energy for all Europeans package, which, being a revision agreed in 2018, applies to the UK despite Brexsit.
These directives promote policies aiming at helping Europe achieve a highly energy efficient and decarbonised building stock by 2050, other than creating a stable environment for investment decisions and allowing consumers and businesses to make more informed decisions to save energy and money.
Both the directives have showed positive results so far regarding energy performance of buildings. In fact, since their introduction in national building codes, new buildings now consume only half of what buildings from the 1980s usually consume(*).
The amended EPBD Directive (2018/844/EU) has introduced new elements, covering a wide range of aspects to help EU governments boost their buildings energy performance. These are the main aspects covered:
- As a result of the last amendment, EU countries must establish stronger long-term renovation strategies, aiming at decarbonising the national building stocks by 2050, introducing milestones for 2030, 2040 and 2050. This means that national implementations of the EPBD – Réglementation Thermique for France and EnEV for Germany, for instance, will have to be regularly updated.
- All the new buildings must be nearly zero-energy buildings (NZEB) from 31 December 2020. Since 31 December 2018, all new public buildings already need to be NZEB.
- Energy performance certificates must be issued (APE in Italy, Réglementation Thermique in France, CEE in Spain and Energieausweis in Germany, are all examples of energy performance certificates) when a building is sold or rented, and inspection schemes for heating and air conditioning systems must be established.
- EU countries must set cost-optimal minimum energy performance requirements for new buildings, for the major renovation of existing buildings, and for the replacement or retrofit of building elements like heating and cooling systems.
In addition to these requirements, with the Energy Efficiency Directive (2012/27/EU), EU countries must make energy efficient renovations to at least 3% of the total floor area of buildings owned and occupied by central governments, and national governments are recommended to only purchase buildings which are highly energy efficient.
All these changes are meant to bring benefits from a consumer perspective, from an environmental perspective and from an economic perspective as well, but they are also having an impact on real estate and the HVAC sector.
So, as per the directives above mentioned, the building sector will have to decrease its CO2 emissions by 40% by 2030 and will have to be carbon neutral by 2050(**). Then the building sector will have to keep up with these requirements acting on the main consumption sources. In this sense, being space cooling, space heating and water heating usually main consumption sources in most buildings, it is important to reduce the impact of these needs on overall buildings energy consumptions.
In other words, a highly efficient HVAC systems meeting both the cooling and the heating demands of big spaces is what is really needed to make a whole building energy efficient and compliant with the directives.
The right energy performance of a building doesn’t necessarily implies less comfort, but it closely relates better living conditions for tenants, who can benefit from the wellbeing that comes from living in a space that has a minimized impact on the environment. And then, there is also an aspect related to lower energy bills, which tenants can benefit from.
With all that comes higher profitability for owners. Buildings complying with EPBD, in fact, usually achieve premium prices(***) and this will keep happening in the future. That is an important enough reason to be ahead of the regulation when building from scratch; or is also a reason to consider a retrofit of the HVAC system, so to keep an existing building efficient and attractive to the market.
Also, building new considering EPBD most of the times gives constructors access to financial incentives, which is important always to consider when investing in a building. Low interest-loans related to buildings’ reduced environmentally impact are an example, but, depending on the country, there are also national funds – Fondo Nazionale Efficienza Energetica FNEE for Italy, for instance – economically supporting the construction or the renovation of buildings complying with EPBD norms.
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