When I close my eyes and try to picture a building, what I see is four tall walls with big glass facades. At the top there is a chimney, with smoke rising quietly towards the sky.
Beautiful, peaceful and evidence of what we humans can achieve. Yet when I open my eyes, I am directly confronted by the realities. Many of our buildings can be a lot better. Not only for the people using them, but also for the environment.
When you look at the EU’s energy consumption, buildings are responsible for approximately 40 percent of this. It makes buildings the single largest energy consumer in Europe. Yet the answer is simple: energy-efficient renovation.
Is it necessary? Undoubtedly. Some 35 percent of our buildings are more than 50 years old, and 75 percent of the entire building stock in Europe is considered to be energy inefficient, while 80 percent of those buildings are expected to be in use by 2050.
“By renovating our building stock, while at the same time developing greener energy sources, we can achieve our ambitious climate plans”
It is estimated that if we renovate our existing buildings, it could reduce the total energy consumption in the EU by five to six percent and lower the emissions of CO2 by about five percent.
In addition, renovations will not only make the buildings more energy efficient. It can also actually save us a lot of money, leading to a better indoor climate on all parameters imaginable.
So, when we’re talking about how to become greener, the answer isn’t only to build a whole lot of offshore wind turbines. Of course, we must continue to focus on wind and other renewable energy sources, because the world’s energy needs are increasing and will continue to do so for many years to come.
However, that fact just underscores the point that we need to become more skilled at reducing energy consumption where we can.
This is why I’m looking forward to the revision of the ‘EU’s Buildings Directive’. This is an opportunity to create a more sustainable building stock. If we succeed, we will need to raise the energy efficient requirements from 32.5 percent in 2030 to about 40 percent.
In addition, we will need to make sure that the requirement for an annual renovation of at least three percent of a Member State’s central administration must cover all public buildings. By doing so, we will be able to ensure that the renovations will include everything from ministries to schools and kindergartens.
I am extremely excited that the ambitions to date have been met by initiatives such as the ‘Renovation Wave’ and the ‘New European Bauhaus’, as these support the need of investments in energy-efficient buildings.
This is indeed the path we need to follow. By renovating our building stock, while at the same time developing greener energy sources, we can achieve our ambitious climate plans.
Striking this balance is important if we are to both save the climate and ensure a competitive Europe with a healthy economy and a high standard of living. This is exactly what I want to see when I close my eyes and picture the future buildings of Europe.