Analysis by Hywel Davies - European Parliament approves revised EPBD

The European Parliament approved the final text of the revised Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, or EPBD, on 17th April. First proposed as a part of the November 2016 ‘Clean energy for all Europeans’ package, which consisted of the revisions to the EPBD along with seven other legislative proposals, as well as other actions to help the EU meet its 2030 energy and climate goals.

The revision of the 2010 Directive maintains the main features of the existing EPBD whilst it modernises and streamlines some requirements. The changes support European goals and obligations to decarbonise the European building stock as part of the EU response to the Paris Agreement. A major focus of the revision is the transfer of the requirements for a national plan for the renovation of existing buildings from the energy efficiency directive. Whilst this is arguably of limited impact on the UK, because we already have the Climate Change Act and the Clean Growth Strategy, it will still help to focus attention on what is needed to upgrade the existing stock.

There is also a much greater emphasis on the provision of more financial support to improve the energy efficiency of existing buildings. This renewed focus on the need to renovate the existing stock is a very welcome and necessary emphasis if the proposed reductions are to be delivered.

The revision also introduces new requirements for “electro-mobility” in buildings by specifying provision of charging infrastructure for electric vehicles, and it introduces a ‘smartness indicator’ that is intended to assess the technological capability of a building for energy generation and consumption.

There is an addition to Article 7 on building renovation which requires that "Member States shall encourage, in relation to buildings undergoing major renovation, high-efficiency alternative systems, in so far as this is technically, functionally and economically feasible, and shall address the issues of healthy indoor climate conditions, fire safety and risks related to intense seismic activity."

This extends the focus of the Directive from energy to the wider aspects of building performance, as well as the issues of fire safety and of seismic activity, which is particularly relevant in southern areas of the EU. The inclusion of fire safety is especially notable from a UK perspective, given recent events, and serves to emphasise once again that energy efficiency cannot be viewed in isolation, but needs to be considered as part of a holistic and systematic approach to a building.

Annex 1, which describes how member states should go about setting national rules for calculation of the energy performance of buildings has also been revised, with more extensive requirements for what must be included, as well as a requirement to set the rules in line with a series of European Standards, and not just to “take account of” the standards.

The Annex is explicitly referenced in Article 3 on adoption of a methodology for calculating the energy performance of buildings, and clearly specifies that primary energy use of a building shall be stated in kWh/(m².y) for the purposes of energy certification and setting of minimum standards of energy efficiency in buildings. It also specifies what energy uses need to be considered in more detail.

Paragraph 2 of the Annex has been expanded so that it now requires that “the energy needs for space heating, space cooling, domestic hot water, ventilation, lighting and other technical building systems shall be calculated in order to optimise health, indoor air quality and comfort levels defined by Member States at national or regional level. The inclusion of health, indoor air quality and comfort into the calculation is a significant expansion of the scope of the Directive.

The final change is in the addition of a new Annex which describes a “common general framework for rating the smart readiness of buildings”, which is to be developed by the European Commission.

With a revision of Part L of the Building Regulation in England already promised to follow the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, it will be very interesting to see how the UK government approaches these changes. One could argue that as the new Directive does not come into force until December 2019, the Uk can ignore the Directive. However, given the recent wrangles over transitional arrangements, that may not be an option. And even if it is, the reality is that the UK needs to take serious steps to reduce the energy demand of its building stock if we are either to be able to satisfy demand in the coming years, or to meet the targets of the Climate Change Act, or indeed our likely commitments under the Paris Agreement. So we will need to engage seriously with the revised EPBD, and it is likely to feature in the discussions around the revision of Part L in the months to come.

Hywel Davies
CIBSE Technical Director


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