Energy performance of buildings

Improving the energy performance of Europe’s buildings is one of the priority areas for energy efficiency policy in the EU. Nearly 40% of final energy consumption is in houses, public and private offices, shops and other buildings.

As part of the European Green Deal (link to eceee web page on EU Green Deal), the European Commission plans a revision of the EU Energy Performance of Buildings Directive to help deliver on the EU's increased climate ambition for 2030 and 2050.

In the Fit for 55 package (view more under policy pages; link), a separate new emissions trading system is set up for fuel distribution for road transport and buildings, to address the lack of emissions reductions in road transport and buildings. Elements of the Fit for 55 package, related to buildings include:

  • Member States should spend the entirety of their emissions trading revenues on climate and energy-related projects. A dedicated part of the revenues from the new system for road transport and buildings should address the possible social impact on vulnerable households, micro-enterprises and transport users.
  • The Renewable Energy Directive will set an increased target to produce 40% of our energy from renewable sources by 2030. All Member States will contribute to this goal, and specific targets are proposed for renewable energy use in transport, heating and cooling, buildings and industry.
  • The public sector will be required to renovate 3% of its buildings each year to drive the renovation wave, create jobs and bring down energy use and costs to the taxpayer.

EU renovation strategy and Renovation Wave

In October 2020 the European Commission published its Renovation  Strategy, which aims to at least double renovation rates in the next ten years and improve the energy and resource efficiency of buildings. According to the Commission foresees that by 2030, 35 million buildings could be renovated and up to 160 000 additional green jobs created in this sector.

The Commission has also introduced a renovation wave of public and private buildings, as part of the European Green Deal. It aims to take further action and create the necessary conditions to scale up renovations and reap the significant saving potential of the building sector.

Directive of Energy Performance of Buildings – EPBD

Revision of the EPBD

In March 2021, the Commission launched an open public consultation on revising the Energy Performance of Building Directive (EPBD) in the context of the European Green Deal ambition to achieve climate neutrality by 2050. The feedback from the consultation will feed into the Commission’s preparation of legislative proposals for revising the directive, which is intended to be published before the end of 2021.

The 2018 EPBD

The Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (2018/844/EU) introduced new elements to the former 2010/31/EU and sends a strong political signal on the EU’s commitment to modernise the buildings sector in light of technological improvements and increase building renovations and improve the energy performance and increasing the rate of renovation of commercial and residential buildings in the EU.

Since the introduction of energy performance rules in national building codes, buildings today consume only half as much as typical buildings from the 1980s.

Minimum energy performance requirements

Under the 2018 Directive, Member States must establish and apply minimum energy performance requirements for new and existing buildings, ensure the certification of building energy performance and require the regular inspection of boilers and air conditioning systems in buildings.

'nearly zero-energy buildings'

The Directive requires Member States to ensure that by 31 December 2020 all new buildings are so-called 'nearly zero-energy buildings'.  It also introduced the concept of cost optimality, requesting that Member States ensure that minimum energy performance requirements for buildings are set “with a view to achieving cost-optimal levels”. The cost optimum level shall be calculated in accordance with a comparative methodology. The calculation methodology was provided by the Commission.

Replacements and renovations

According to the EPBD, minimum requirements for components are introduced for all replacements and renovations, although for major renovations, the holistic calculation methodology is the preferred method with performance calculations based on component requirements allowed as a complement or alternatively.

A harmonised calculation methodology to push-up MS minimum energy performance requirements towards a cost-optimal level is set out in the Directive in a definition and an annex.

Support of EED

The energy performance of buildings was also supported by elements of the Energy Efficiency Directive that promoted the renovation of public buildings and the development of long-term renovations strategies. The proposal for revising the EED was published in July 2021 as part of the Fit for 55 package and is now in the approval process. 

EU countries must make energy efficient renovations to at least 3% of the total floor area of buildings owned and occupied by central governments. National governments are recommended to only purchase buildings that are highly energy efficient.

Other provisions under the EPBD are:

  • EU countries must establish strong long-term renovation strategies, aiming at decarbonising the national building stocks by 2050, with milestones for 2030, 2040 and 2050. This should contribute to achieving the national energy and climate plans (NECPs) energy efficiency targets
  • EU countries must set cost-optimal minimum energy performance requirements for new buildings, for existing buildings undergoing major renovation, and for the replacement or retrofit of building elements like heating and cooling systems, roofs and walls
  • Energy performance certificates must be issued when a building is sold or rented, and inspection schemes for heating and air conditioning systems must be established
  • Smart technologies are promoted, including requirements on the installation of building automation and control systems, and on devices that regulate temperature at room level
  • Provisions of health and well-being of building users is addressed, for example consideration of air quality and ventilation
  • Member states must draw up lists of national financial measures to improve the energy efficiency of buildings

Energy performance of buildings standards

The Commission has established a set of standards and accompanying technical reports to support the EPBD called the energy performance of buildings standards (EPB standards). These are managed by the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN/CENELEC).

Sustainable Built Environment Strategy

In March 2020, the Commission committed itself to come forward with a sustainable built environment strategy, with a new circular economy action plan and a new industrial strategy for Europe.

The­­­­­­­ construction sector is responsible for over a third of the EU’s total waste generation and emissions resulting from material extraction, manufacturing of construction products, construction and renovation of buildings amount to around 5-12% of total national GHG.  

The  aim of the strategy will be to increase material efficiency and to reduce climate impacts of the built environment, promoting circularity principles throughout the life cycle of buildings.