Public Consultation on Sustainable Buildings

The European Commission is preparing a Communication on Sustainable Buildings for the beginning of 2014. In order to gather views and additional information on the possible introduction of EU wide measures to achieve better environmental performance of buildings it has published a public consultation. The results of the consultation will help the Commission to identify which issues to prioritise in the Communication. The consultation will remain open until 1 October 2013.

The consultation relates to the environmental aspect of sustainability concerning sustainable buildings. There is already legislation in force at EU level about the energy efficiency of buildings, notably the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive. Therefore the focus of this initiative will be on resources such as materials (including waste), water and embedded energy. It will cover both residential and non-residential buildings and will address resource use and related environmental impacts throughout the life-cycle of buildings from the extraction of building materials to the demolition and recycling of materials at the end of the life of a building.

In particular there is concern about the need to increase demand among consumers for environmental performing buildings. Particular factors to be looked at are the lack of information available and the fragmentation of single market/technical barriers to trade. The Commission wishes to raise awareness, improve knowledge, remove barriers caused by differing requirements, improve material efficiency and support more intensive use of buildings.

Possible actions to be taken could include the establishment and promotion of an assessment framework for the environmental performance of buildings, the provision of information on the environmental performance of buildings to stakeholders and professionals, the recommendation of requirements for the reporting of environmental impacts and resource use of buildings and components to be used at national level. Member States could also be given advice on developing financial incentives for better environmental performing buildings and co-operate on policies aiming at more intensive use of public buildings.

So far only a limited number of Member States have addressed resource use beyond energy efficiency in the building sector. There are some initiatives which regulate the calculations of the environmental impacts of buildings and/or construction products. However these national initiatives differ partly in scope and method.