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Europe must curb emissions from buildings, urges coalition of 300 businesses – as Green Building Councils help governments to develop ambitious action plans for renovation

Europe must lead the world on cutting greenhouse gas emissions from existing buildings if we are to meet the ambition of the Paris Agreement, a coalition of over 300 businesses and organisations from across the continent urged today.

The coalition – which includes cities, public authorities, property developers, manufacturers and energy utilities, as well as trade associations, NGOs and universities – is backing the need for ambitious ‘national renovation strategies’ that set out clear targets, milestones and measures on transforming existing buildings.

The intervention comes as EU member states near the deadline* to publish updated strategies to renovate their buildings, which account for around 36 per cent of Europe’s total greenhouse gas emissions, and as political decision-makers grapple over the future of EU energy laws for the construction sector.

This groundswell of support for more ambitious European renovation policy follows the conclusion of BUILD UPON, an EU Horizon 2020 funded project, in which 13 Green Building Councils in Europe played a leading role in helping national governments to create strong and robust strategies that will see their countries unlock the energy saving potential in their buildings.

Their recommendations are released today in a series of publications by the World Green Building Council, the coordinating organisation behind BUILD UPON, a project which has received praise from dozens of ministries, cities and other public authorities across Europe for its major impact on renovation policy. The publications set out actions for how their countries can deliver the level of ambition needed on existing buildings that will meet the Paris Agreement (see notes to editors below), and were developed by the 13 Green Building Councils through a major collaborative process involving nearly 2,000 key organisations at 100 events across Europe.

James Drinkwater, European Regional Director of the World Green Building Council, said: “Europe is at a cross roads in terms of its energy policy, with decision-makers unwilling to commit to a clear vision for one of Europe’s most pressing climate challenges – its buildings. But this intervention is proof that a large number of businesses and organisations are committed to ambitious plans on building renovation. 

“Our Green Building Councils in Europe have been leading this charge by helping their national governments to develop strong action plans to transform buildings across Europe.”

Experts have warned that significantly stronger building renovation policy is needed if Europe is to unleash a boom in construction jobs, improve citizens’ quality of life – particularly those on lower incomes who are hit hardest by energy costs – and to meet its climate obligations under the Paris Agreement.



Notes to editors

For a full list of the 300 businesses and organisations making today’s call, click here.

Some of the key shared recommendations from Green Building Councils for national renovation strategies include:

  • Awareness raising: Many of the publications call for more concentrated and creative efforts to engage citizens on the benefits of energy efficiency home improvements, with examples from countries like Spain, which has run a nationally televised campaign of short films starring well-known actors to raise the profile of energy efficiency.
  • Improving skills: The need to upskill the construction sector to help transform Europe’s existing buildings, and to control the quality of renovation works, is cited a number of times. Programmes like Ireland’s ‘Qualibuild’ are taking action here, but further government support is needed to scale-up such programmes.
  • Finance: The need for innovative renovation finance, including green mortgages and green bonds is a common recommendation, with Green Building Councils now supporting the European Mortgage Federation in efforts to define an energy efficiency mortgage for Europe – offering house buyers lower interest rates in return for more energy efficient properties.
  • Regulation: Several countries called for policies that would make building renovation mandatory under certain conditions, a move made by countries like the UK, which has outlawed the rental of properties falling below an ‘E’ energy rating after 2018.
  • Cross-sector coordination: A theme running through many of the national recommendations is the need for a more concerted effort to ensure public institutions, private sector organisations and civil society groups are joining up and coordinating efforts. Countries like Denmark, with its ‘Network for Energy Retrofit’, and France with ‘Le Plan Batiment Durable’ have started to move towards more formal structures for coordination.

For the full set of recommendations, click here.


Renovation strategies

In order to meet the EU’s 2050 emissions reduction targets, renovation rates need to increase from their current rate of 1 per cent per year, to 3 per cent per year by 2020, according to the Buildings Performance Institute Europe.

Under the 2012 Energy Efficiency Directive, the EU required each Member State to establish a ‘national renovation strategy’, a long-term strategy for renovating homes and commercial buildings to high standards of energy efficiency.

*These strategies had to be delivered for the first time by 30 April 2014, with strengthened strategies to be submitted every three years thereafter, with the next by 30 April 2017.

Strong national renovation strategies require clear energy saving targets, awareness raising initiatives, skills programmes, financial mechanisms and policies.



The BUILD UPON project is the world’s largest collaborative project on building renovation, led by 13 Green Building Councils in Europe, and coordinated by World Green Building Council and Green Building Council España.

Since March 2016, BUILD UPON has engaged nearly 2,000 key organisations at 100 events, exceeding original aims to ensure over 1,000 key organisations were actively working together on building renovation strategies.

The project’s online RenoWiki portal features over 750 individual initiatives on renovation across Europe, from awareness raising campaigns, to energy efficiency policies or financial incentives – all serving to inspire and encourage the renovation community.

The project has been widely praised for strengthening renovation strategies in the project countries.

Maroš Šefčovič, Vice President, European Commission, said: “WorldGBC’s BUILD UPON is a true community of leaders – we are counting on your leadership to create a renovation revolution across Europe.” 


About WorldGBC and the Europe Regional Network

The World Green Building Council is a global network of Green Building Councils which is transforming the places we live, work, play, heal and learn. We believe green buildings can and must be at the centre of our lives. Our changing climate means we must reshape the way we grow and build, enabling people to thrive both today and tomorrow. We take action – championing local and global leadership, and empowering our community to drive change. Together, we are greater than the sum of our parts, and commit to green buildings for everyone, everywhere.

WorldGBC’s Europe Regional Network represents a community of 24 Green Building Councils, 8 Regional Partners and over 5,000 company members. Our Regional Partners are E.ON, Knauf Insulation, Saint-Gobain, Skanska, UTC, BASF, Stora Enso and ASSA ABLOY.