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Let’s create an exciting new generation of sustainable public buildings

By Knauf Insulation
June 30, 2021

The revision of the Energy Efficiency Directive offers a unique opportunity to transform Europe’s public buildings. However, it is essential that the directive prioritises quality as well as quantity.

When it comes to public buildings in Europe don’t we deserve the best? Shouldn’t our schools, hospitals, administrative centres and social homes all be role models for sustainable building best practice.

Unfortunately, this is not the case, because when it comes to public property there have always been challenges, mainly political and financial.

However, next month’s revision of the Energy Efficiency Directive (EED) on July 14 offers a unique opportunity to eliminate those challenges completely and transform our public buildings into a lasting legacy of which we can all be proud.


Ambition must drive directive revision

How? We focus on quantity and quality when it comes to renovation.

First, quantity. The directive calls for 3% of all buildings “owned and occupied” by central government to be renovated every year.

But why stop at central buildings?

What about all public buildings at every level — local, municipal and regional — such as schools, hospitals or cultural centres? This would dramatically increase the ambition of the EED and widen the scope of renovation. For example, in Germany, there are only around 37 public buildings that are owned by central government, most are owned by regional authorities.


Renovation is key to 2050 climate neutrality

Only focusing on central buildings represents just 4.5% of the EU’s building stock but all public buildings including those at regional and local levels represent 12%.

Buildings are responsible for 36% of CO2 in Europe and with the European Union committed to cut emissions by 55% by 2030 and be the first climate neutral continent by 2050, it is vital that every opportunity is taken to be as ambitious as possible when it comes to public building renovation.

What is so exciting about this ambition is that there are financial resources available to make it a reality. The European Union has signed off on an historic €672.5 billion Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) to rebuild economies shattered by the pandemic with 37% of funds ringfenced to achieve climate objectives.

In France, for example, €100 billion has been allocated over the next two years as part of the country’s National Recovery and Resilience plan with 40% of this money coming from the EU’s Recovery Fund. €4 billion has been dedicated to renovation of public buildings, €2.1 billion for health buildings and €2.5 billion for private and social housing.


Deep renovation is essential

So what about renovation quality? “As well as expanding the percentage of European buildings being renovated, revising the EED is a unique opportunity to create flagships of renovation,” says Knauf Insulation’s EU Public Affairs Manager, Katarzyna Wardal.

“The present EED highlights the ‘exemplary’ role of public building renovation. And these buildings should be role models for low carbon emissions and high energy efficiency. In other words, the revision should stress deep renovation to the highest possible energy class,” she says.


Creating Better Buildings

“There has been a great deal of discussion about ‘alternative approaches’ to decarbonising buildings such as changing the behaviour of building users. But let’s face it, such measures as these are not as effective as deep renovation and the EED revision should focus on this.”

At Knauf Insulation Creating Better Buildings is a cornerstone of our sustainability strategy. And our public affairs teams around the world have campaigned consistently to put deep renovation at the top of public agendas.

Katarzyna also sees public building renovation projects as an opportunity to demonstrate best-in-class approaches to building safety and climate resilience while focusing on decarbonisation in a meaningful way that resonates with the people who use these buildings.


Building renovation role models of the future

“Imagine a school that is an outstanding example of energy efficiency so it becomes a teaching aid about how to save emissions and save the planet and also demonstrates what is being done for future generations. In a public administration building, there could be information about how much energy  and carbon have been saved by a renovation.

“Picture energy efficient hospitals, schools or public offices featuring green walls and roofs offering natural spaces that enhance urban biodiversity and well-being and offer community space while acting as a ‘building sponge’ to capture stormwater and take the pressure off ancient urban sewage systems.

“Ultimately the EED revision is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create the public buildings we all deserve. Our hope is that the European Commission will lay the foundations to make this opportunity genuinely achievable.”

• Explore showcase public renovation projects that have been transformed with Knauf Insulation solutions in various countries:


Gebäude des Berufsbildungswerks Würzbur

Georg-Eydel-Haus in Würzburg has been transformed from a dormitory for trainees at the city’s Vocational Training Center (BBW) into a holistic center for single mothers studying for BBW apprenticeships. The building features educational facilities for the future apprentices and a ground-floor day-care center for their children. Knauf Insulation solutions installed included UNIFIT TI 135U rolls, LDS 2 Silk membranes and SDP-035-UD-GF Mineral Wool for roofs.

De Beurs, The Netherlands

The former 150-year-old Stock Exchange in the Dutch city of Leeuwarden has been converted into a new faculty building for Groningen University. During the ambitious renovation, Knauf Insulation's Acoustifit 140 mm was installed in internal walls to improve the building’s thermal performance without impacting the historic facade.

Ifremer offices, France
Ifremer offices - France

The 3,700 m2 headquarters for the French Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea (IFREMER) in Plouzané in France features Knauf Insulation’s Naturoll 032, TP138, Ultracoustic and FIT035 solutions. The dramatic curved building has been constructed to meet demanding environmental standards and designed to reflect its striking location overlooking the sea. The building accommodates 840 IFREMER employees.

Copyright © IFREMER Stéphane LESBAT