The EPBD is not the problem but the solution


Emma Potter

The construction sector under the lens

A sector particularly energy intensive that's it building.

In fact, we use 40% of the total energy to heat and cool our homes. Therefore the construction sector is considered a problem but, paradoxically, also the solution to the problem because, thanks to the commitment and research of scientists, technicians, industries, designers and businesses, carried out in recent decades, we are already able to build high-performance buildings very high efficiency and with energy requirements close to zero.

Climate scientists gathered in the IPCC (the UN panel) have been telling us for decades that the temperature increase must be kept below 1.5 °C compared to the temperature of the pre-industrial period (1850-1900) and the signatory States of the World Convention on Climate Change, in the COP (Conference of the Parties) in Paris in 2015 and in Dubai have committed themselves to pursuing this objective of stabilizing the temperature and to achieve carbon and climate neutrality by 2050.

It is therefore necessary that the commitments made are urgently grounded (as they say now) and the European Community (which presents itself united with a single voice in world climate forums and plays the leading role both in a cultural and technical sense) he took this commitment seriously and enacted it two important directives: the RED – renewable energy directive – which aims to introduce at least 42-44% of renewables into the energy mix and the EPBDthe Energy Efficiency of Buildings Directive.

Fourth EPBD version approved

The one just ratified by the European Parliament (and awaiting the final pronouncement by the Council in mid-April) is the fourth modification of this EPBD Directive born in 2002, then updated in 2010 (in which it introduced the revolutionary concept of nZEB – almost zero energy building) and in 2018. In 2019, as soon as she took office at the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen launched the Green Dealan intergenerational project that intends to lead the European Community to carbon neutrality in 2050, which was followed, in 2021, by the project Fit for 55%which introduces the intermediate stage of 2030 by which to reduce CO emissions by 55%.2 present in the atmosphere in 2010.

These two projects have brought a breath of innovative change into the European cultural and social paradigm, they have given vitality, passion and hope for a better future in which social progress walks side by side with the environment, respecting it.

Thus was born the fourth update of the EPBD which has experienced a long approval process with the draft proposed by the Commission in March 2023 and its first approval by Parliament in December 2023. The draft prepared by the Commission was very clear, it aimed to respond seriously to the urgency and need presented by scientists. The draft was slightly modified by Parliament which, however, has maintained the two characteristics, of urgency and of a feasible and resolutive proposal. Then the draft entered the trilogue, the joint discussion phase between the Commission, Parliament and Council. And here is the draft it has lost its luster and vigor. And charm.

With the complicity of part of the media and a political party that has always been opposed to the idea of ​​Europe as a community of states, to the innovative spirit and positive thinking that inspired the Green Deal the narration of took over a stepmother Europe than with the sarcastically renamed EPBD directive Green Houses, wanted to impose sacrifices on nations in the name of an ecological transition deemed useless and baseless. With this reversal of plans, the EPBD directive has gone from being a solution to the problem to becoming the problem. And so one thing emerged from the trilogue pale and less incisive version compared to what had entered it.

EPBD: rudder pointed towards 2030 and 2050

But despite numerous amputations the EPBD still maintains its rudder well aimed towards the two goals of 2030 and 2050.

The directive takes on the role of a useful tool for resolving the problems we have discussed such as the mitigation of climate change, relief for sections of the population suffering from energy poverty and the need to make energy supply no longer dependent on foreign supplies. The reference to the new architecture that must inspire this was much appreciated new wave of renovations called New Bauhauswith explicit reference to the social and democratic values ​​of the Gropius and Mies van der Rohe school of architecture.

The timing of the EPBD

I believe that the most important innovation is the introduction of the concept of Zero Emissions Building, which joins the already well-known nZEB zero-energy building. To create a CO2 emitting building2 Nothing is necessary to carry out an accurate and conscious design with a decidedly holistic approach because every single choice must be optimized both in its technical-economic content but also in its environmental effects. This is a concept yet to be explored and dissected and to be mastered quickly.

There timing of the directive provides, in fact, these deadlines:

  • new residential buildings will have to be built with zero emissions from 2030;
  • new public buildings must be built with zero emissions from 2028;
  • for existing residential buildings:
    • by 2030 reduction in average primary energy consumption by at least 16%;
    • by 2035, reduction in average primary energy consumption by at least 20-22%.

Following the changes introduced during the trilogue, the energy requalification interventions will therefore no longer be based on the actual situation of each individual building but on the average situation of the real estate assets. This change makes the individual States protagonists and responsible develop a technical-financial strategy that can achieve the results envisaged by the directive.

I conclude with the hope that Italian and European citizens will seize with enthusiasm and interest the opportunities that this directive contains, leaving aside cynicism and discouragement artfully fueled by the Euroscepticism and scientific denialism of a few, to walk with social and generational responsibility towards a better future.