Greening Europe’s homes and public spaces is a crucial element of the EU’s strategy towards climate neutrality, and one of the pillars of the European Green Deal. But to achieve its goals, the EU will need to come up with a comprehensive strategy for energy and resource efficiency while also ensuring that sustainable homes become an affordable solution for all citizens.
In this paper, we call for the EU’s ‘Built Environment’ strategy to take into consideration the limits of our natural world and resources. The EU’s work towards greener buildings should include a broader approach and clearer policy commitments to radically change the real estate business and reduce the overconsumption of construction materials.
COVID-19 emphasised the importance of the built environment for our societies. With more than 90% of our time spent indoors, the impact of the built environment on health and productivity should be better valued and understood. The health crisis has also stressed the inequalities in the access for all to suitable and healthy buildings. Social distancing and self-quarantine are not possible in overcrowded homes while centralised heating and cooling systems turned out to be dangerous vehicles for the spread of the virus.
The lockdown measures expanded the South Korean concept of officetel to officetelschool, which may last longer than earlier thought. The new COVID-19 wave suggests the pandemic might well be endemic and our societies must adapt to this new reality. Policy makers, civil society and industry should seize the opportunity of the new health requirements triggered by COVID-19 to accelerate the metamorphosis of the 240 million homes and 46 million of non-residential buildings into sustainable ones.
Renovating the EU building stock within the seven-year timeframe for keeping within the 1.5°C warming limit set down in the Paris Agreement closes the door to incremental improvements. To the contrary, it requires making zero energy renovation compulsory and renovating more than 34 million homes every year. This makes the move to digitalisation unavoidable. The EU building industry must catch up with other leading markets in the use of digitalisation technologies and upgrade the skills of its employees.
The European Innovation Council (EIC) should provide support to projects aiming at developing the technical and technological solutions needed to renovate Europe.
Read more in the PDF attached.