Europe recognizes for the first time the impact of the entire construction life cycle on climate change and its fundamental role in combating it. This is clear from the recent review of the Energy Efficiency of Buildings Directive (EPBD, for its acronym in English), which includes a petition initiated by the Green Building Council Spain (GBCe) in its Roadmap for the Decarbonization of Buildings in Spain, framed by the Building Life project. “Emissions not due to the use of buildings can reach up to 41% of the sector’s total emissions between now and 2050, so including the entire life cycle of decarbonization policies is a more than necessary step,” he emphasized. Dolores Huerta, general director of GBCE.
In this way, the scope of the decarbonization of buildings is expanded, from considering only emissions from use to considering the entire life cycle. Therefore, the EPBD introduces the global warming potential indicator, which allows measuring the carbon footprint of the entire construction, maintenance, renovation, use, and end-of-life processtoo limit the greenhouse gas emissions of a building throughout its life cycle.
“To introduce the whole life cycle of the fight against climate change, it is necessary to define an evaluation method, have sufficient data, and, as an important factor, train professionals to include this new vision in all projects,” Huerta specified. Because of this need to have enough data that allows us to define an evaluation method, the GBCE participates in SHOW, the European project, which is working on the development of data in three countries, including Spain, and is advancing the work that needs to be done to implement this part of the directive.
Multiply the rehabilitation by 12
Another of the challenges facing the construction sector to achieve zero-emission real estate stock in 2050, which is in the EPBD, consists of enhancing rehabilitation intervention. In this sense, the EPBD review states that the entire park built should have zero emissions by 2050, which in our country would be equivalent to multiplying by 12 the current rate of rehabilitation of the building. “To completely reduce greenhouse gas emissions from our buildings and homes, most of them must be rehabilitated before 2050, including improving the insulation of the walls and roofs, changing the windows, and, finally, protecting ourselves as much as possible from the cold and heat outside to be able to maintain a comfortable temperature without having to turn on the heating or air conditioning, “Huerta determined.
Along with this increase in rehabilitation, the directive also includes financial instruments to help this transition and elements such as the end date for the use of fossil fuels—coal, diesel, or natural gas—inside buildings. In this way, from 2025 on, it will not be possible to subsidize the installation of heating or air conditioning systems that use these fuels, and from 2040 on, any boiler or equipment running on these fuels must be phased out because they are not good and cannot be bought. “Abandoning fossil fuels is a unanimous agreement to combat climate change. This step will also help us improve the quality of the air we breathe in our cities, eliminating the harmful gases emitted by these devices,” Huerta emphasized.
After the provisional agreement reached by the European Commission, Council, and Parliament, the final approval of the modification of the directive is expected to take place in March of this year.