A new classification of ‘Green’ buildings
The RE 2020 climate & energy package is a set of binding legislation to ensure the EU meets its climate and energy targets for the year 2030. The package sets three key targets:
- 20% cut in greenhouse gas emissions (from 1990 levels)
- 20% of EU energy from renewables
- 20% improvement in energy efficiency
The text is still under discussion and will not be published until autumn 2020. This article aims to provide an overview of the information that prefigures the text and the avenues revealed. However, in the absence of the final publication, the contours of the text may still evolve.
The new regulation aims to better control the carbon impact over the entire life cycle of the building, on the one hand, by encouraging construction methods that emit low greenhouse gas emissions, and on the other hand, by promoting decarbonated energy sources. This regulation is thus in line with the objective of carbon neutrality by 2050, to which European countries committed themselves at the 2015 COP21 in Paris in a bid to limit global warming to 1.5°C.
Over 50% of CO2 emissions from a new building are emitted during the construction phase. The RE 2020 will take into account the greenhouse gas emissions of buildings at all stages of their existence, from the origin of the materials used, through to construction and the operational phase, in a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) logic. This approach is pioneering in Europe and will open up new perspectives for circular economy and eco-design.
As the leading greenhouse gas sector, the building industry must not only contribute to reducing carbon emissions but also adapt to the effects of climate change and in particular to the predicted rise in temperatures. Due to the effect of heat islands, we may well expect to see an increase in warming in urban areas during the summer months. Sustainable construction cannot be limited to the single phase of building use, but must also include consideration of greenhouse gas emissions throughout the life cycle of the building. To achieve this, the 2020 RE would impose a maximum threshold of greenhouse gas emissions to be respected in the design, based on a life cycle analysis taking into account the materials, the construction phase, the energy intensity of use, and the end of life. For the construction industry, which until then had no carbon regulations in the broadest sense, this is a major step forward.
The methods for calculating energy-related carbon emissions will be changed in this new regulation. In particular, the theoretical carbon emission ratio for heating electricity should be lowered to a value of 79 gCO2/kWh (compared to 210 gCO2/kWh in the E+C- experiment). Similarly, the conversion coefficient of final energy to the primary energy of electricity would be lowered to 2.3 as opposed to 2.58 previously. These changes should lead to an increase in the use of electric heating in the design of projects.
The thresholds will probably be refined since consultations with professionals in the sector are still ongoing in the various European countries. The EU is reflecting on the challenges of mitigation and adaptation to climate change and should establish a reference system enabling financial actors to identify and promote the most energy-efficient buildings. RE 2020 sets the objective of energy neutrality for new buildings, compliant new buildings could then be classified as “green” on the financial markets according to the European taxonomy.