The EU has boldly led global action on energy efficiency in buildings over the past decades. Across the region, a giant industry is mobilising to deliver a new generation of nearly zero energy buildings from 2021. As we near this deadline however, leading states and industry actors are waking up to the reality that we are only addressing part of the building sector’s impact. Our vision must now extend towards its total impact.
The Paris Agreement demands the building and construction sector to decarbonise globally by 2050, if we wish to avoid the catastrophic impacts of a +2 degree rise in temperature. Whilst we tackle the 28% of global emissions from building energy use, the 11% of ‘embodied’ emissions from construction threatens to rise dramatically due to urban growth if left unchecked (UN Environment, Global Status Report 2017).
In Europe, if we look beyond the use phase of buildings towards their full life cycle (including extraction, manufacture, transport, construction and end of life) they are responsible for:
• Half of all energy use
• 40% of all greenhouse gas emissions
• Half of all raw material extraction
• A third of all water use
For this reason, the EU has set out ambitions to move towards radical resource efficiency and circular material flows in its Circular Economy Action Plan. It is now exploring routes towards a net zero emissions economy by 2050, looking at what role buildings and related industrial sectors play.
One thing is certain: it will be impossible to meet our climate and circular economy goals unless we address the total impact of the building and construction sector.
For this to happen, a huge culture shift is needed towards actions and policies that tackle the full life cycle of buildings and their impacts. We must see all the actors along the sector’s value chain as a single team that needs uniting. This is a debate on which the EU must lead the world to avoid a climate crisis.
This is why the European Commission has developed Level(s); a foundational framework of common European indicators to measure the sustainable performance of buildings across their whole life cycle. It is currently in its test phase, and its ambition is to create a ‘common European language’ for the whole sector value chain, that can help build data, empower debate and drive action.
Level(s) focuses on six ‘hotspots’ for environmental impact through the whole building life cycle: greenhouse gas emissions, resource efficiency, water use, health and comfort, resilience and adaptation to climate change, and cost and value.
Hundreds of leading public and private sector organisations from across Europe have supported the design of Level(s), and are now working to build it into a strong foundation for the building sector’s sustainable future.
Source – European Commission