WorldGBC has been at the forefront at advocating for healthier, more comfortable and productive spaces for people who live, work and study indoors. Can you tell me more about the work done by World GBC network when it comes to the residential sector?
The World Green Building Council has had a focus on the residential sector for a number of years, and recently released a guide to healthy homes and a healthy planet at COP24 in December 2018. This was a follow-up document to our 2016 report providing a business case for healthy homes to developers, with a case study focus on the UK.
As a global membership organisation, we recognise the breadth of health and environmental risks presented by the residential buildings sector in terms of emissions released and the impact on climate change and human health and development. To cater for such a global audience, we focused on core features of sustainable housing that are relevant worldwide – air quality, thermal and acoustic comfort and light, and presented engaging and relevant research around each topic, as well as simple strategies for the homeowner to utilise. This document is now being translated into numerous languages, and the WorldGBC and our member GBCs continue to advocate for better quality housing worldwide.
The recently released “Guide to healthier homes and a healthier planet” report outlines the impact of indoor parameters like light, noise, thermal comfort, etc. What are some of the key findings and how they can be used to improve home environment?
Within each of these headlines we tried to keep the messaging simple and effective. With air quality, we talked about both indoor and outdoor air quality – covering messages around outdoor pollution getting into homes, the contribution of fuels burnt in housing to generate pollution, and indoor pollutants caused by toxic materials or damp and mould build-up.
With thermal and acoustic comfort we presented a range of energy efficient strategies for different climates around the world, with a vital awareness that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to sustainable design.
In terms of lighting, this section encompassed both electric lighting and natural light, and offered guidance around how to reduce energy expenditure on light as well as how to improve wellbeing through exposure to sun and daylight.
Each of these topics is backed up by recent and relevant research – check out the report on our website, available as a free download, for more information!
Given the urgency to reach climate and energy goals set by the Paris Agreement and given the current low rate of building renovation, how do we get there?
For the buildings sector, the most ambitious scenario in the model assumes that we more than triple average annual renovation rates to 3.4% by 2030 and that 96% of buildings are renovated by 2050. This scenario requires strong government support in the form of binding targets for member states and mandatory building codes for renovation.
There has been quite a lot of attention and support, especially at the EU level on the need for financing building renovation, including both public and private sector-driven innovative financing schemes. While financing is a critical piece in the overall renovation package , it cannot trigger the required volume of renovation by itself. The decision to renovate an existing building or home is often not based only on economic rationality (ie, payback from energy cost savings). Thus, we need to explore how to build public support and put monetary value on the benefits of better quality buildings such as health, productivity, comfort, appearance, etc.
ECF recently commissioned a market survey in 5 very different EU countries to better understand the public perceptions around home energy renovation. Through a series of focus groups and survey of 6,000 people representing a range of demographics, the study found that thermal comfort, monetary saving and a healthy indoor environment are the main motivations to carry out energy efficient renovations across all countries. Reportedly, financing is the key barrier to home and commercial building renovation, followed by hassle and lack of technical knowledge.
Let’s talk about the mandatory renovation requirements. Can mandates help to jump start the market?
Mandatory building codes are needed to accelerate the rate of renovation. They exist for new construction already—in less than two years, all new buildings in the EU must meet nearly zero energy requirements.
A similar requirement should be phased in over time for existing buildings and should be integrated with decent and affordable housing requirements. This is starting to happen, for example in countries such as in England and Wales, which won’t allow renting a building with an energy performance certificate of F or lower, in Flanders (Belgium), which set a requirement for roof insulation for home rentals, or in the Netherlands, where social housing providers must meet an minimum average B-rating across their portfolio by 2020. It is also happening at city level, for example, the US city of Boulder, Colorado ties rental permitting to minimum energy efficiency requirements.
ECF is currently exploring the issue of mandatory building codes to ensure that such requirements do not exacerbate existing pressure on the availability of affordable housing, by integrating energy performance requirements into a wider housing quality strategy, which should include affordability, sustainability, and access for all sectors of society.
What does equal access to financing mean in the context of energy efficiency renovation?
Equal access to energy efficiency finance means that viable options are available for all sectors: residential, commercial, and industrial. However we aren’t there yet. In the case of the residential sector, banks only offer low interest loans to customers with good credit ratings. Those who cannot afford to take on more debt or who are not homeowners are therefore excluded. Similarly, in the commercial and industrial sectors, low cost loans are only granted to large investments and large businesses with strong credit ratings. This excludes most SMEs - both project developers and their commercial and industrial end-clients - the vast majority of European enterprises.
Whereas on-bill and on-tax financing are great options for low income households, crowdfunding can support small one-off projects for local communities, EPCs are excellent structures for small but scalable commercial and industrial projects. Innovative off-balance sheet financing should allow everyone to benefit from warmer homes and more comfortable working spaces, granting equal access to energy efficiency and renewables that, to date, are still luxury goods inaccessible to most EU citizens.
What are some social, economic and health benefits of energy efficiency renovation?
Energy efficiency improvements can impact the health of vulnerable citizens in a very important way; reduced respiratory disease symptoms and lower rates of excess winter mortality in cold climates are the most prominent benefits, as well as a decrease in mental health problems linked to energy poverty. Home renovation has the power to bring a considerable number of Europeans out of energy poverty, lowering their energy bills and improving their indoor environment.
Finally, building renovation programs are able to revitalize local economies through an injection of capital, and the creation of new local jobs and capabilities within the construction and energy service industry. From an industrial and commercial perspective, providing comfortable and healthier workspaces can also improve workplace productivity within offices and factories, and thus business competitiveness at large.
Based on your experience in home and
building renovation space, how do we persuade
people to invest in improving their
home’s energy efficiency and why?
Few people wake up in the morning with a burning desire to go out and buy energy efficiency from the shop or the web. It’s something that is sold to them either by tradesmen while undertaking other improvements to their home, because they’re persuaded about its benefits from people they trust like family members, or they get to see if for themselves in a neighbour’s home.
As an energy efficiency community, we have to align our offer with existing triggers for homeowners. In some cases that means being creative and thinking about energy efficiency from a more people-centric perspective.
If you had to boil it down to three things,
what motivates people to act?
1. It’s important to make the renovation as hassle free as possible for instance undertaking external insulation or internal insulation when a wall is being treated. Or offering to declutter the loft at the same time as insulating it.
2. Using people’s desire to fit-in helps: a street-by-street programme with high levels of participation tends to prompt others to join in.
3. Co-benefits from the investment can be persuasive for some people, e.g. increasing the resale value of their home, or reducing the void periods for landlords. For households with young children or elderly relatives improved healthiness can be a trigger.
What are some of the key findings from the
Energy Efficiency Market report? What trends
are you seeing globally and in Europe when it
comes to home and commercial building renovation?
Globally, efficiency gains since 2000 prevented 12% more energy use and emissions in 2017. However, an increase in energy using activities across many countries, regions and sectors is outweighing ongoing progress on energy efficiency, meaning that global energy demand and emissions are still rising. There is significant untapped potential remaining in energy efficiency. Given that policy on energy efficiency has slowed in recent years, we are focused on reinvigorating effective policy in order to achieve remaining potential.
As a special feature, this year’s Energy Efficiency Market report included the Efficient World Scenario (EWS), developed by the IEA World Energy Outlook. This scenario shows what would result if policies were implemented that led to all available cost-effective energy efficiency measures being implemented between now and 2040. The EWS shows that while the global economy would double between now and 2040, adoption of cost-effective energy efficiency measures would limit increases in global energy demand to levels only marginally higher than today, with CO2 emissions falling by 12.
Buildings are becoming more efficient, but policy needs to be comprehensive. Read on.
What are the most frequent questions you
receive from your members about energy efficiency
programmes? What type of guidance
are member states looking for?
There is growing recognition globally of the benefits of energy efficiency and why it is important. Where there is less certainty is when it comes to the ‘how’ of efficiency. This includes questions like what types of energy efficiency policy will be most effective? How can investment be scaled-up? What value can digitalisation bring in terms of improving policy effectiveness and efficiency performance?
Also, in countries with a relatively nascent efficiency policy framework, what steps should be taken to realise the potential of energy efficiency? How can we build skills and capacity? How can we engage relevant stakeholders?
In the case of Europe, the European Union Energy Efficiency Directive (2012/27/EU) has facilitated a lot of progress in energy efficiency improvements, and so the question is what is next? Countries are interested in what policies have facilitated greater levels of energy efficiency investment and how to reach, aggregate and fund small-scale projects. In this context, we are particularly focused on the next generation of energy efficiency policy, including what digitalisation makes possible for energy savings. Read on.
What are the main recent policy developments focusing on energy use in buildings in Europe?
The EU has very ambitious objectives in relation to energy performance of buildings. The long term goal is to fully decarbonize European building stock by 2050. This is a very challenging target that would require massive amounts of investment, over 200 billion euros per year, according to the most recent studies1 . The 2018 revision of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) reinforces the policies foreseen in the previous versions of the legislation and strengthens the energy efficiency requirements for existing buildings. For instance, it will be necessary to increase building renovation rate from the current 1% to 3 %, with the aim to promote deep renovation. The EPBD also mentions the importance of local action by regions and cities, as well as development of adapted finance to implement its objectives.
What are the trends in private residential building renovation in Europe?
There are substantial differences between European countries when it comes to the level of residential building renovation ambition. Overall, I notice that an increasing number of countries and local authorities are developing initiatives to renovate homes at high energy efficiency standards. For instance, in France, national or local programmes, such as Energies Posit’IF or Picardie PASS, are promoting deep renovation, while in Ireland, Super Homes is offering financing assistance for holistic retrofits. A common feature of these initiatives is the delivery of both technical and financial support to homeowners. Many of these initiatives are also supported by the EU institutions, through technical assistance, in particular the ELENA programme, grants from the Structural and Cohesion funds and financing from the EIB. Overall, I’m seeing a faster development of the home renovation market in Europe with a trend towards deep renovation.