The Renovate Europe Campaign celebrated its annual REDay beacon event on the 8th of October 2019 in the European Parliament. Gathering building sector stakeholders, experts and policymakers this ninth edition was hosted by MEP Pernille Weiss (EPP, Denmark) and co-hosted by MEP Ciarán Cuffe (Greens, Ireland) and MEP Theresa Griffin (S&D, United Kingdom). This diverse political support demonstrates the cross-party relevance of the Campaign. Researchers, policy experts and practitioners joined the moderated debate around the topics of Financing Renovation and gave feedback from Projects in Action. The debate was followed by the exhibition entitled Deep Energy Renovation: Already All Around Us, which was displayed for the whole week inside the Parliament.
The thorough energy renovation of the building stock across the EU is an essential component of the body of actions needed to tackle the climate emergency and achieving Paris COP 21 engagements. Buildings currently account for 40% of the total primary energy consumption in the EU and the ambition of the Renovate Europe Campaign is to reduce the energy demand of existing EU building stock by 80% by 2050 as compared to 2005 consumption levels. This implies a significant increase in the depth of energy renovation works and the rate at which the works are carried out. Renovation works are carried out today at a rate of less than 1% per year. It will be necessary to urgently reach a steady pace of 3% per year and to maintain that rate until 2050.
It is in facing these figures, goals and unavoidable challenges that in 2011 the Renovate Europe Campaign was launched as the initiative of the member companies of EuroACE – the Alliance of Companies for Energy Efficiency in Buildings. Throughout the last nine years, the Campaign has been gathering data and evidence on the energy renovation challenge and has been communicating a coherent approach to these challenges. Promoted routes and actions take into account a systemic approach considering societal challenges, economic parameters, industry evolution, legal local contexts and policy evolution. From the beginning, the multiple benefits of energy efficient renovation of buildings have been addressed, underlining the virtuous circle favouring environment, economy and society, as a key driver for individual, collective, and institutional action.
‘Deep Energy Renovation Already All Around Us’
With the insight and experience gained, this year’s edition of REDay focused, through the debate and the exhibition itself, on showcasing real projects from different European countries and climates, and concerning all typologies of buildings. Successful cases of high quality renovations of schools, housing, public and historic buildings, as well as financing programmes, were brought under the spotlight. These cases demonstrate the feasibility of deep energy renovation for all building types in all parts of the EU and should encourage more bold action and ambitious policy framework evolution to enabling the upscaling of such practices, as underlined by Adrian Joyce, Renovate Europe Campaign Director.
In addition to the more than 20 projects and 6 programmes from 17 countries being showcased in the exhibition, the panel debate and presentations further highlighted some of the successful projects.
The new IEA-SHC Task 59 collaborative research (IEA) project, focusing on the environmentally sound preservation of the built heritage, and the European Interreg Alpine Space project ATLAS and Energy Efficiency in Historic Buildings offer technical and methodological support to individuals and to municipalities aiming to raise the value of traditional architecture of this region, and was presented by Daniel Herrera (Eurac research). From his experience, he recalled that today’s barriers are not technical ones, and that it is in the fields of communication and the transfer of knowledge and constructive and planning solutions that efforts are most needed. He also recalled that although data and research are important, the best way to motivate and convince people is through storytelling.
Other stories were indeed shared in the debate session. Roman Grünner, from Alchemia Nova, presented the deep renovation project of an 88-apartment block in Bratislava, Slovakia, related to the EU–GUGLE project. There useful lessons were learnt in the process of high-quality interventions on the envelope and technical installations, both of which allowed the project to achieve the Slovak nZEB level and a 74% reduction in the energy demand of the building on completion. Alex Paterson, Chief Executive of Historic Environment Scotland (HES), commented on exemplary projects selected for the exhibition and on the vision of HES in its mission of providing guidance and advice concerning the enhancing of all kinds of heritage buildings, addressing everyone from homeowners to public authorities. He highlighted their goal of adding value to real estate through local skills and local materials benefiting local communities.
Addressing the financing of building stock renovation at a large-scale, two interesting presentations took place. Joonas Kerge presented the KredEx Programme, from Estonia, which has been active for 17 years and has a proven success, having helped over 100,000 people to live in better conditions. Urban and rural areas are considered within its specificities, while keeping a personal and human-centred approach. Through consistency and perseverance, local receptiveness has increased, and the implementation of initiatives is easier than before. “We have reached a tipping point, a shift in the way people think about their homes, energy usage and quality of life” – Kerge mentioned.
Furthermore, this year’s REDay debate reserved time to present a recent Carbon Leverage report from the Regulatory Assistance Project (RAP). Louise Sunderland, Senior Advisor at RAP, stressed how ‘carbon pricing’ and national carbon revenues in the framework of the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS) should be translated into deep energy renovations investments and thereby deliver benefits for both people and economy.
These are times of change, new cycles, inspiring renovations, and some unsettling changes too. All these inspire MEP Pernille Weiss’ paraphrasing of Churchill’s words during her intervention, “we shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us”, to express how important renovation has become for European citizens as we redesign our society by renovating our buildings.
Constructive solutions are at hand, management and financial options have become increasingly available, and an array of benefits for generalised deep renovation are proven. Yet the market and the demand are not awake and in line with the scale and timeframe needed. The skilled workforce and capacity of the sector needs to be reinforced. Policy has an important role to play and pitfalls to avoid. In this sense and recalling recent and meaningful progress in legislation in the fields of energy and buildings, MEP Theresa Griffin drew attention to the need to ensure full implementation of adopted legislation.
Alongside the concise and abundant benefits of large-scale implementation of deep renovation of the whole building stock, this generalised energy retrofitting requires sizable quantities of (grey) energy and matter. These need to be taken into account, through full lifecycle assessments, for adjusting the overall environmental balance and selection of optimal options.
Finally, the potential of the recent rise in the digitalisation of the building industry was also highlighted during REDay2019. Such technological interfaces can offer important gains in comfort, efficiency and optimisation in all phases, from planning and conception of interventions, to fabrication and construction, and into the domain of operation and management of the buildings and their technical installations. These developments are inspiring and promising, needing nonetheless that the environmental footprint and energy needs of a generalised roll-out of smart technologies to be taken into account alongside the benefits that will arise. Light-impact, low-tech, sturdy and resilient energy renovation solutions are an essential part of energy-efficient, future-proof architecture of buildings.
Closing and conclusions
The colourful, winding panels of the exhibition, built to display best-practice case studies of deep energy renovation from throughout the EU, will surely have a life beyond REDay 2019. Beyond their role of addressing the European Parliament policy makers and visitors during this week of October 2019, the exhibition has the potential to infuse new policymaking at the national and regional scale as well as raising awareness of the general public by placing these panels in strategic public spaces or addressing more technical stakeholders of the building and renovation sector.
Along with the MEP hosts’ closing words, the final keynote speech was given by Dr. Yamina Saheb, Lead Author of the Buildings Chapter of the IPCC Report. Recalling the structure and strict methodology for ensuring the objectives and scientific quality of the IPCC reporting, she raised the importance of interaction and concrete collaboration between practitioners and scientists following the example of Renovate Europe action.
This call for collaboration echoes MEP Ciarán Cuffe words: “We know where we need to be in 2050. It’s not easy. It is necessary. Let’s do this together”