‘Renovation Wave’ an ally to reduce energy-use, but environmental impacts must be accounted for to avoid a waste wave
European Commission vice president Frans Timmermans and commissioner Kadri Simson today launched the EU’s ‘Renovation Wave’, aimed at doubling the rate of renovation of existing buildings across the continent, with a focus on improving energy performance to reduce associated emissions. 
ECOS believes that this approach can indeed help the EU cut net emissions towards ending energy poverty, but environmental impacts of solutions must also be accounted for.
The ‘Renovation Wave’ intends to set mandatory minimum energy performance requirements for buildings, an important step in upgrading Europe’s worst-performing buildings and eliminating energy poverty. This target will then be transposed by Member States as a condition for receiving recovery funds to help incentivise investment and financing of renovation works.
Nonetheless, ECOS warns that to make sure the ‘Renovation Wave’ is in reality an ally for our environment, we need to ensure that construction products and other solutions used for renovation are made from low-carbon, sustainable and non-toxic materials, and should be easy to maintain, repair and reuse in future.
To achieve this, it will be essential to apply circular principles when considering options for renovation, and use a lifecycle approach to assess environmental benefits of certain renovation solutions over others. This should in turn help ensure long-term durability and resilience of existing structures, rather than short-term fixes.
Justin Wilkes, ECOS Executive Director, said:
Doubling the renovation rate of buildings will be essential to our ecological transition. But we need to take a close look at the net-carbon benefits of materials and technologies we use, in part through rigorous climate-impact analyses of the different solutions available for heating, cooling and insulation. Otherwise, we will be catching a waste wave when first-generation solutions stop working.
Member States are now required to develop strategies that will drive uptake of circular principles across the value chain including sourcing safe, sustainable and secondary raw materials, reuse and recycling and waste management. EU leadership is essential for adoption at national level of life-cycle thinking and circularity, a key principle of the strategy.
Decarbonisation of heating and cooling are also a key pillar of the Renovation Wave, and rightly so. However, the proposed ’minimum level of renewables in buildings’ will not be sufficient to address this challenge, and we need to stop installing fossil fuel technologies in buildings now. The Ecodesign Directive will play a key role in this, but the ambition of the ongoing revision of the measures for space and water heating must be considerably scaled up to stop the unfair advantages granted to fossil fuel technologies and pave the way for their total phase-out by 2025.
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