European Commission consults on water efficiency in buildings

The European Commission has published a public consultation on the possible introduction of EU wide measures related to water efficiency in buildings. This relates to the protection of the water environment, which is coming under increasing pressure due to rises in population and urbanisation. The EU has already acted to improve the energy efficiency of buildings, most notably in the recast Energy Performance of Buildings Directive. The period of consultation will last until 8 February 2012. CEPI looks forward to taking part in the discussions concerning the policy options for dealing with this important issue over the next few months.

A background paper for consultation with stakeholders presents the issue and refers to an ongoing study which investigates options to improve the water performance of buildings at EU level. These options depend on the type of building, whether it is new or due to be renovated, ownership and use. In particular the quantities of water used and patterns differ between residential (72% of the total building water use) and non-residential buildings (28%). Options to reduce water use include raising awareness, pricing, and water metering, limiting use, installing more efficient products, planning buildings to be more efficient and using alternative water sources.

The paper includes a description of building–level policies, such as rating and auditing so as to demonstrate and compare building performance against defined standards, either on a voluntary or mandatory basis. There could be minimum water performance requirements for buildings being built or renovated. The option selected for the use of alternative water sources is a certification scheme for water reuse and harvesting. This involves recycling water which has been used (for example for washing) and harvesting rainwater.

The main foreseen impacts of these options are still under discussion, but at building level potential water savings of about 25% are anticipated for all building types. The paper points out that there may be a misalignment between owner costs and tenant benefits, i.e. the split incentive to which CEPI has drawn attention previously in relation to energy savings, because the landlord usually pays the cost of the efficiency measures and the actual user of the building gets the benefit of reduction in costs.

There are also important health and sanitary issues involved. Together with the consultation there is a general questionnaire which can be completed (before the deadline of 8 February) by all interested parties. 
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