2018 will be remembered for many things — the World Cup, the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I and a year undoubtedly dominated by the UK’s decision to leave the European Union.
But at Knauf Insulation we want 2018 to go down in history as this year concrete legislative action is finally taken to create buildings that are safer, more energy-efficient and more sustainable.
Throughout 2017 we have worked with policy makers to build the foundations for better buildings of the future — see our sustainability report and key successes below — but it is now time to translate this work into a long-lasting and enduring legacy.
“We have a narrow window of opportunity before the European elections and a new European Commission in 2019 so it is vital that next year we capitalise on the opportunities that have been created in 2017,” says Siân Hughes, our Director of External Affairs.
Adding further momentum is the Commission’s proposal for the next Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), expected in May. This proposal will highlight the areas of European policy that will be given financial priority in the coming months as well as the initiatives that will shape Europe’s long-term future.
“Throughout this process, building energy efficiency must be treated as an infrastructure investment and given a ring-side seat when it comes to future policy,” says Siân.
So, what can this look like in reality?
“One hugely significant development has been the revised Energy Performance of Buildings Directive. On paper, it could be given great power to help European countries create long-term, well-thought out strategies that will double renovation rates across Europe,” says Katarzyna Wardal, our EU Public Affairs Manager.
“But ensuring these measures become a reality depends on the outcome of trialogue talks between Europe’s Parliament, Commission and Council which are currently ongoing. If we miss this opportunity we will lose a least a decade before the chance comes around again.”
Meanwhile, the European Commission is piloting a Europe-wide initiative called Level(s). Knauf Insulation is not only supporting the programme by providing expertise but has also unveiled a new building in Slovenia that will contribute research to a two-year Level(s) pilot phase.
“It is a great opportunity for Knauf Insulation to be part of such an initiative because it could have a major impact on the national building laws of the future and perhaps even pave the way for future European Sustainable Building legislation,” says Laura Croze, our External Affairs Officer.
“Level(s) is also in line with Knauf Insulation’s holistic approach to sustainability. We have consistently campaigned for a Life Cycle Assessment approach to buildings that focuses on sustainability from the sourcing of raw materials and product use to ultimate end of life disposal.”
Another key area of building sustainability has been the issue of fire safety. After many years of campaigning by our public affairs teams, 2017 was a turning point.
“We are finally seeing positive debate about issues of building fire safety and the development of strong partnerships and a positive exchange of information between Member States through the creation of the European Commission’s new Fire Information Exchange Platform,” says Siân.
“Fire safety is firmly on the European Union’s agenda and we look forward to seeing these partnerships strengthen in future and finally provide Europe with the fire safe buildings it deserves.”
How Knauf Insulation campaigned for change in 2017
The European Commission introduced new guidance which unlocks the renovation of public buildings using private funding via Energy Performance Contracting. The move follows a campaign led by our Slovak and EU public affairs teams and removes the negative impact of this type of funding on public debt.
Fire Safe Europe’s #EUCanBeFireSafe campaign won two categories in the EuroPAwards 2017 for ‘Lobbying the European Parliament’ and ‘Best NGO Campaign of the Year’. Knauf Insulation is one of the main supporters of the campaign holding the Presidency and chairing the Communication Task Force.
Height of innovation
In Germany, the Knauf Group and Knauf Insulation are examining a range of innovative solutions with the aim of tackling the challenge of creating hundreds of thousands of affordable new accommodations every year. These include the possibility of creating new homes through vertical extensions to existing buildings. Throughout 2018, we will be working on tax incentives to step up the renovation rate of existing buildings.
In 2017, we analysed data from 70 homes in the UK — both insulated and uninsulated — and also piloted a scheme involving training a team outside of the traditional supply chain to deliver renovation solutions that performed as promised.
In the Czech Republic we are helping with our partners drive multi-million-euro government programmes for the renovation of single family homes, apartment buildings and public buildings including a new green roof subsidy.
Fire safety first
Following campaigning by our team in Slovakia, timber buildings can now be built to a height of five storeys as long as they are filled with non-combustible material, fire barriers must be installed in all new buildings, incombustible material has to be installed in new-build facades higher than 22.5m and ventilated facades are only permitted with Mineral Wool in new builds. Meanwhile, in Serbia non-combustible materials are now required in the facades of all public buildings.
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