Why quality and quantity must inspire renovation across Europe

By Knauf Insulation
February 01, 2022

In the Belgian town of Halle a total of 184 social homes have been given a deep retrofit — the biggest mass renovation in history. Meanwhile, 75 kilometres away in Aarschot, a further 164 homes have been given a similar energy-saving deep renovation.

The two mass projects, carried out by Knauf Energy Solutions (KES), provided jobs for dozens of skilled workers, reduced energy use at scale, generated mass savings, cut greenhouse emissions and improved living conditions for hundreds.

In other words, the initiatives are real-life examples of all the benefits of renovation.


Buildings generate 36% of Europe’s emissions

Knauf Insulation is now stepping up its campaigning work across Europe to maximise every opportunity offered by new European Commission proposals to supercharge renovation.

Last year saw a raft of Commission plans designed to keep Europe on track to reduce emissions by 55% by 2030 and ultimately become the world’s first net zero carbon neutral continent by 2050.

As buildings are responsible for 36% of Europe’s emissions a focus was placed on making buildings more energy efficient. Key to this aim was a revision of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive or EPBD.


Minimum energy standards for buildings


Knauf Insulation’s EU Public Affairs Manager Katarzyna Wardal says: “The EPBD sets maximum levels of energy use in new buildings at European Union level and establishes minimum energy performance standards for existing buildings."

“This is good news for society, job creation and the environment, but the devil is in the detail. That is why Knauf Insulation is working closely with policy makers to transform the revision into a workable, effective reality that genuinely delivers a new generation of sustainable buildings.”

The EPBD proposal introduces the requirement that around 60 million buildings with the lowest energy rating (F or G) would need to be upgraded by 2033.

This would be done according to a predefined sequencing: starting from public and commercial buildings to reach at least ‘E’ standard by 2030 and the renovation of apartments and houses to at least ‘E’ by 2033.

This is great news for the millions of Europeans who cannot afford to heat their homes. However, transforming 60 million buildings in a decade is a massive task, one that demands a constant focus on quality work that really delivers all the energy saving and decarbonisation benefits of renovation.


Ensuring more effective renovation

Analysis by Renovate Europe shows that Recovery Fund renovation investments are expected to only deliver 30% energy savings. This is disappointing when the technologies exist to bring down energy demand by 80%.

In addition, organising renovation projects can be highly complex with Europe’s annual renovation rate at a disappointing 1%.

So, what can we do to drive effective renovation? For Knauf Insulation two major steps forward would be to improve the quality of renovation projects and make the entire process straightforward using public and private ‘one-stop shops’.

Peter Robl, Knauf Insulation’s Public Affairs Manager for Eastern Europe, says: “Financial incentives need to drive Members of the European Parliament, but money is not enough. It is essential to also have one-stop shops that can provide the technical assistance and support required to achieve quality deep renovation.”

Peter Robl

Cutting through the complexity of renovation

Peter cites the example of Slovakia where the government will invest €500 million of EU recovery funds to subsidise the renovation of more than 30,000 single-family homes.

“The money must be invested by the end of 2026 and this is challenging. Renovation is a time-consuming, complex, often once-in-a-lifetime process and homeowners need specialist support and feedback,” Peter says.

“Plans to introduce 10 one-stop shops across Slovakia’s major cities would help owners make effective decisions quickly and easily, leading to deep, quality renovation. These one-stop shops could also act as pilots to ultimately inspire renovation support centres in every town in the country.”


Ensuring quality and trust

Knauf Energy Solutions (KES) has been carrying out mass renovations for a wide range of social housing associations across Western Europe with the biggest projects in Belgium.

The company ensures quality and trust by first monitoring the energy efficiency of buildings pre-renovation. Renovation work is then carried out using high-quality products with every stage of the process managed to ensure quality assurance. Post-renovation, the energy savings are audited to show the effectiveness of the retrofit.

Barry Lynham, Managing Director of KES, says: “We can demonstrate improvements with objective real performance data from before and after renovation — backed up by quality assurance systems. This ensures trust.”


Unlocking the potential of renovation

Renovation at scale has the potential to be transformational for Europe.

Oscar Del Río

Oscar Del Río, Knauf Insulation’s General Manager for Iberia, describes the opportunities in Spain as unprecedented. “Spain is the largest recipient of NextGenerationEU recovery funds and will allocate a significant portion of these resources to building renovation and urban regeneration programmes with €6.8 billion divided between direct aid, subsidies and tax incentives,” Oscar says.

Spain is ripe for major renovation initiatives. Many of the country’s residential buildings were built more than four decades ago when thermal insulation was not mandatory. This means that the country has unprecedented potential for improving energy efficiency and reducing energy poverty.

But to realise the potential of this opportunity, Oscar echoes his Knauf Insulation colleagues in calls for quality deep renovation. “Spain has to be ambitious and establish strict criteria for renovations,” he says.

He also believes public authorities can lead from the front when it comes better buildings. “It is also vital that the administration assumes an exemplary role in the development of sustainability building policies.

“This can be done by undertaking a deep renovation of public buildings especially those that are inefficient as well as committing to green public procurement to prioritise the use of sustainable materials such as Mineral Wool.”



Header photo: The Halle homes after the completion of work.