News article

3 months COP26: What's happening in the construction sector?

Building Automation
17 February 2022

The built environment and construction sector accounts for 38% of global carbon emissions. Following on from the United Nations Climate Change Conference, there has been a sense of renewed enthusiasm to decarbonise the built environment.

In our latest blog on the crucial climate summit, we look at some of the initiatives that have been launched in the aftermath of COP26 to achieve the goal of a net zero built environment.

Building performance

Since the end of COP26, the European Union has come under increased pressure to improve energy standards for buildings. Buildings account for 36% of the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions and to reduce this, the EU has set in motion improved efforts to achieve its legally binding objective to reach net zero by 2050.

As part of this, a draft EU directive – the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) – will require all new structures built from 2030 onwards to be net zero. In addition, for existing buildings, EU countries will have to ensure minimum energy performance standards are applied when they undergo major renovation. This applies to both residential and non-residential properties.

To achieve this, member states will need to establish an action plan to promote the renovation of the national building stock into a highly energy efficient and decarbonised buildings by 2050. The plans will need to include an overview of each country’s national building stock, the annual energy renovation rate and the energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions of buildings. It will also need to identify the worst-performing buildings and barriers to renovation.

Another proposal from the EU would be the requirement to measure the carbon emissions associated with construction materials throughout their whole lifecycle, but it is unlikely this will become law.

Global construction challenge

To coincide with COP26’s ‘Cities, Regions and Built Environment Day’, C40 Cities launched a new coalition of cities and construction sector companies to tackle the urgent challenge of emissions from the global construction sector.

The new Clean Construction Action Coalition targets a vital sector that represents 23% of global greenhouse gas emissions and consumes more than half of all extracted global resources. The aim of the initiative is to accelerate the transition to net zero and halve emissions from global built environment sector by 2030. This will be achieved by rethinking the way buildings and infrastructure is planned, designed and built.

Accelerating decarbonisation

Recognising the need to improve carbon emissions from across the real estate sector, major stakeholders have joined forces with the Urban Land Institute (ULI) to scale-up and accelerate decarbonisation.

The project - Fast-track to Decarbonisation: An Integrated Roadmap for the Built Environment – is the result of a partnership between the ULI and organisations including Allianz Real Estate, Catella, Hines, Redevco and Schroders Capital, to support the built environment in Europe on its journey to carbon neutrality.

This will be achieved by analysing and consolidating the real estate industry’s approach to net zero, assessing progress and the impact of industry frameworks, as well as identifying gaps and barriers that need to be bridged. The anticipated output will be a roadmap to enable the industry to accelerate progress and present an effective and efficient united front to support decarbonisation in collaboration with other stakeholders, such as tenants, the insurance sector and energy and infrastructure/mobility providers.

The power of retrofit

A new renovation framework - the ‘Build Upon2 Framework - was launched by the World Green Building Council, several European Green Building Councils – including UK, Hungary, Croatia and Poland, the Climate Alliance and the Buildings Performance Institute Europe.

The Build Upon2 Framework project is empowering cities across Europe to join forces with national governments and industry to decarbonise their existing building stock by 2050.

BUILD UPON2 is working with eight pilot cities to develop strategies and solutions to deliver the European Commission’s Renovation Wave.

The following eight pilot cities are currently participating in the project, alongside a wider network of 24 cities who are benefitting as “follower cities”:

Velika Gorica, Croatia
Budaörs, Hungary
Dublin, Ireland
Padova, Italy
Rybnik, Poland
Valladolid, Spain
Eskişehir, Turkey
Leeds, UK

The main focus of this Framework project is to develop and pilot a ‘multi-level renovation impact framework’. This framework is being used to track and report the diverse range of benefits of building renovation. It features a unique suite of milestones and measurable progress indicators for city renovation strategies including: emissions reductions, increased employment and improved health.

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Bill Whittaker

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Bill Whittaker