1. How is the energy performance of buildings nowadays compared to 10 years ago? Is it slowly changing or is there a big difference?
According to data provided by the Odyssee-MURE database between the years 2000 and 2011, heating consumption in the EU decreased by 22% which tells us that on average the energy performance of buildings is improving.
New buildings are performing better due to European legislation and the enhancement of energy performance requirements. At the same time, support programmes and measures for energy renovations created market uptake in most EU countries and hence contributed to improving the energy performance of existing buildings. However, a significant part of energy performance improvements have been offset by increased thermal comfort (higher diffusion of central heating) that inhabitants could afford and by the tendency of having larger dwellings. This progress is not enough to reach the EU’s 2050 decarbonisation goals or, globally, the aims of the 4th Report of the UN International Panel for Climate Change. On top of that, we are still far from meeting the significant cost-effective energy savings potential of European buildings as indicated by several studies.
Therefore, more efforts should be dedicated to improving the regulatory and market frameworks for both new and existing buildings. Moreover, the vigorous implementation of nearly Zero Energy Buildings (nZEB), cost optimal methodology and other new pieces of legislation have the potential to significantly contribute to achieving the energy savings potential of buildings.
2. What are the main things that need to change when people/companies/organisations want to improve their buildings’ energy performance?
As previously mentioned, there are some market barriers to investing in improving energy performance of existing buildings through deep renovation. The high upfront capital requested for undertaking deep renovation of the existing building stock is probably the biggest challenge in upscaling the market on a commercial basis. There are also market failures such as lack of information on long term benefits of increasing the energy performance of buildings, lack of proper advice and guidance on how to implement deep renovation measures, as well as a lack of market options and knowledge on the contractors’ side in providing these measures. Therefore, in order to further increase investment in buildings, the EU and Member States (MS) have to improve and design holistic packages of policies and economic instruments with a long term predictability. This will ensure the creation of a stable and smooth investment framework to mobilise capital and encourage activities that improve the energy performance of the existing building stock.
3. In what kind of way do you support them?
BPIE is working on studies and analysis aiming to further improve EU buildings policies and provide knowledge-based evidence for both the EU policy development process and improved implementation at MS level.
Among our activities, we started in 2010 a periodical survey on the EU building stock status and policies which materialised in one comprehensive study, “Europe's Buildings under the Microscope” and the further development of the BPIE buildings Data Hub. Our areas of expertise span from defining principles of nZEB and their implementation, providing guidance regarding a cost optimal methodology and designing renovation plans, evaluating financing schemes to other subjects such as dealing with fuel poverty and benchmarking EU policies pertaining to building renovation, to name just a few. You can access all these publications on our website.
4. More and more green office buildings are being built - how do you look at the office building market?
An office has to offer a proper climate for employees in order to not harm and even improve productivity. A building with a low energy consumption and sustainable design offers a very good working environment having at the same time low maintenance needs and costs. Green and low energy consuming buildings are becoming increasingly attractive on the office market. All the same, there is still a need to increase reliability of buildings’ systems and functionality as a whole in order to stabilise the market and secure all the above mentioned benefits. Further development of new technologies, decrease of market prices for already existing ones and better solutions to integrate these technologies into a reliable building system are probably the biggest challenges in the near future. Bad experiences may seriously harm market transformation.
5. What are the differences between countries in Europe when it comes to the energy performance of buildings? And is there a different strategy to improve it per country?
There are significant differences in the energy performance of buildings across MS and EU regions. These differences are based on diverse economic conditions, on diverse building traditions, on local context (including climate considerations), culture and so forth. Acknowledging these differences, the EU policy on buildings tries to harmonise approaches among MS while giving them space to adjust implementation to local contexts. Therefore, within the same European policy framework, national strategies should be tailored according to the specificities of each country and even regions. Otherwise, the effectiveness of these strategies will be diminished and the risk of failure would be quite high. A good policy aiming to increase the energy performance of buildings has to build on the current status and provide a realistic roadmap to a better future. The continuous dialogue with stakeholders on buildings policies and strategies is vital to enhance their market uptake.
6. How do you see the future? What are the main things you will be focussing on?
Firstly, implementation of building policies is key. Partial implementation would only dilute the impact, would lessen the force of market transformation and would increase the overall societal costs.
Secondly, predictability of the investment framework is needed to trigger vigorous investment and consolidate the market progress. Building policies should have continuity and be transformative, gradually improving the buildings market. Lack of predictability generates again higher costs of transition and may even lead us to dead ends creating just temporary market distortions.
In conclusion, the future of buildings will be bright if we continuously care about securing market transition in the context of generating economic