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Member States must ensure revised directive eliminates Europe’s ‘energy vampire buildings’, says Knauf insulation

By Knauf Insulation
December 19, 2023

Knauf Insulation has welcomed a newly revised directive designed to phase out inefficient ‘vampire buildings’ that drain and waste vast amounts of Europe’s energy.

Following nearly two years of intense political negotiation, European institutions reached a provisional agreement on the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) on December 7. The reviewed EPBD maps out how the EU can achieve a zero-emission and fully decarbonised building stock by 2050 with a focus on renovating Europe’s worst-performing buildings.

Quentin Galland-Jarrett, Knauf Insulation’s Group Public and Regulatory Affairs Director, said: “The challenge is enormous. Europe’s buildings are responsible for 36% of Europe’s greenhouse emissions and 40% of its energy. At least 75% of Europe’s buildings are energy inefficient and the EU renovation rate stagnates at 1% a year.

“However, Member States are legally required to meet a 55% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and the revised EPBD highlights how the transformation of the built environment — particularly through renovation — must play a key role in achieving this goal.

“Knauf Insulation has consistently campaigned for increasing Europe’s renovation rates and for the effective and efficient renovation of the EU’s worst-performing buildings based on measured results. We welcome the level of ambition of the new EPBD and we are looking forward to helping Member States maximise the opportunities it offers.”

Quentin Galland-Jarrett, Knauf Insulation’s Group Public and Regulatory Affairs Director

Eliminating energy vampires

Under the directive, each Member State must embed new rules in their legislation to ensure existing buildings achieve specific energy performance requirements by specified dates.

Residential buildings will need to achieve national energy savings of 16% by 2030 and 20% to 22% by 2035 with 55% of these renovations targeting the worst-performing buildings in each Member State. These ‘vampire buildings’ are defined as being in the lowest 43% of the national building stock.

Each Member State must also map out how their renovation strategies will then contribute to achieving a zero-emission building stock by 2050.

In addition, 16% of the worst performing non-residential buildings must be upgraded by 2030 and 26% improved by 2033.

Member States will have the possibility to exempt certain categories of residential and non-residential buildings from these obligations, including historical buildings or holiday homes.

Katarzyna Wardal-Szmit

Katarzyna Wardal-Szmit, Knauf Insulation’s EU Public Affairs Manager, said: “The revision of the EPBD has a powerful social dimension. Every country is mandated to target the buildings with the biggest savings potential and in the process they will be improving living conditions for the 41 million Europeans who are unable to keep their homes warm.

“As well as achieving 2050 decarbonisation goals, renovation also reinforces Europe’s energy resilience by reducing the need for imported energy. For example, a recent Building Performance Institute of Europe (BPIE) report found that energy demand for heating in residential buildings could be reduced by 44% if all residential buildings in the EU were effectively insulated.”

Making renovation easy

Renovation requires technical expertise, financial support, trusted contractors, quality solutions as well as measured results.

The revised EPBD mandates Member States to introduce ‘one-stop shops’ to make the entire renovation process easier for buildings owners by providing everything they need in one place. It also opens the door to cooperation between the authorities and private sector to set up and operate such dedicated entities.

“One-stop shops will accelerate renovation initiatives by removing the financial, technical and administrative hurdles that slow down the process and provide trusted results that deliver,” said Katarzyna. “They will also create new jobs across Europe. The economic impact will be significant.”

Ensuring real performance

Member States are traditionally reliant on theoretical calculations to estimate the energy performance of buildings based on questionnaires about factors such as surface area, number of rooms and type of heating or cooling appliances.

The new EPBD now offers Member States an option to accurately measure the real performance of buildings using meters, sensors and digital technology.

Katarzyna said: “Knauf Energy Solutions has consistently demonstrated how theoretical calculations, used to define energy performance,  can be wildly inaccurate when compared to real life monitoring of energy use by readily available digital technology.

“As we accelerate the transition to a zero-emission built environment it is vital that we have accurate insights on the success of renovation initiatives. We need to have a quantifiable understanding of how effective these measures have been in terms of metered energy savings and emissions reduction.

“I am confident Member States will welcome the opportunity to accurately audit the impact of renovation initiatives using digital solutions that provide a long-overdue and much-needed level of trust in energy efficiency measures.”

Harmonising the market

From 2028 there will be a national requirement for new buildings of more than 1,000 square metres to disclose their whole life carbon (WLC). This requirement will be extended to all new buildings as of 2030.

WLC encompasses the carbon emitted from energy used to heat and cool a building (operational carbon) and the carbon generated throughout the life cycle of building materials (embodied carbon).

WLC will need to be disclosed through energy performance certificates in accordance with European Standard EN 15978.

“This is an important aspect of the EPBD because it harmonises methodology and ensures all countries are reporting in the same way,” said Katarzyna.

“WLC will become increasingly important in the countdown to the 2050 decarbonisation as buildings become more efficient. As a result, it is important that the lifecycle emissions of different materials, processes and services are universally assessed in the same way.”

Zero-emission buildings

Finally, the revised EPBD also updates the energy performance standards for Nearly-Zero Energy Buildings. These new standards will see an improvement by 10% compared to current requirements for new buildings.

Under the revised directive, new public buildings must meet a new “zero- emission standard” as of 2028 and as of 2030 all new constructions must be “zero-emission”.

Katarzyna said: “It is essential that new buildings are futureproofed and do not require significant energy renovation before 2050. Quality renovations and well-performing new buildings are fundamental to decarbonise our energy systems in a way that is sustainable and economically viable.”

Quentin Galland-Jarrett added: “The revised EPBD is a golden opportunity to improve the living standards of millions, achieve Europe’s 2050 decarbonisation targets and strengthen European energy resilience. At Knauf Insulation we are looking forward to supporting Member States in achieving these historic ambitions.”


• For more details about the revised EPBD discover here 

Picture in the header: Homes in the Gansbeek residential area of Bilzen, Belgium.