Building circular and climate-neutral buildings for Europe

(EurActiv, 8 Jul 2019) The circular economy will be an essential building block of a climate-neutral Europe. A circular economy means making the most of our resources, doing more with less while reducing waste and energy use. This is a huge challenge for the construction sector, which uses about half of the resources extracted around the world. Europe can’t build a circular economy without focusing on the built environment.

This means that the EU must develop the right tools, including guidelines and the necessary regulatory framework to accompany the Union towards a zero-carbon and circular built environment. It is important to remind ourselves that as one of Europe’s largest economic sectors (almost 10% GDP) the construction is a very divers industry that includes a huge number of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). These SMEs will be instrumental in achieving the EU’s circular economy and carbon neutrality objectives. They need clear support to participate and strive in the sustainable built environment. For this, the EU needs to confirm its commitment to provide direction and a predictable business environment against the 2050 horizon. Only this will ensure that the construction sector can fully engage in the transition.

Commitment to the Energy Efficiency First principle and the energy efficiency of buildings regulatory framework established over recent decades have already shown that Europe can be a leader. The EU has set itself an ambitious objective of achieving highly energy efficient and decarbonised building stock by 2050. This has already mobilised investors and policy makers to start delivering a new generation of nearly zero energy buildings. Because some 97 percent of existing European buildings will need to be renovated, the 2050 target also spurs investment in the buildings we live and work in every day.

This commitment needs to be combined with a social transition for buildings. Most Europeans spend up to 90 percent of their time in buildings – in offices, schools, hospitals and shops, and of course at home. Better housing will provide a better future! But citizens want to hear about the benefits of buildings renovation, as well as about support for creating a modern built environment. Renovation is designed to improve energy efficiency, and so to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and the dangers of climate change. But the societal benefits of investing in building renovation go well beyond energy savings. Our health and well-being will equally benefit from better buildings By putting the principles of sustainability and circularity at the centre of the building sector’s transformation, the EU can deliver maximum value for society.

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EurActiv, 8 Jul 2019: Building circular and climate-neutral buildings for Europe