Revision of the Energy Performance of Buildings

Observation from The Swedish Association for Building preservation, concerning Revision of the Energy Performance of Buildings – Directive 2010-31-EU.

We share the same well-founded opinion as the Danish and Norwegian associations for building preservation (Foreningen for Bygning- och Landskabskultur in Denmark; respectively Fortidsminneforeningen in Norway); the most significant sustainability factor for buildings is their durability and total life cycle impact. This includes the necessity to avoid wasting limited natural resources, such as material and energy required if buildings are demolished and replaced with new ones, or if constructions are renovated without life cycle assessments of the impact.

We find it urgent to highlight the following:

  • As there is no EU directive that protects the architectural heritage as an environmental, economic, and social resource, all protective legislation is to be found on the national level. The variation of such legal systems and their enforcement varies throughout Europe, which might lead to an inadequate balancing of sustainability perspectives.
  • The built heritage of Europe shows a great variety in building techniques and age. Therefore, the vulnerability to physical transformation due to retrofits differs.
  • Numerous conservation methods enable preservation of historie buildings while improving the energy performance. Extensive research is also undertaken to improve this further. This development depends partly on the legal enforcement, as higher demands for adaptive solutions goes hand in hand with the legal demands on respect of the cultural heritage.
  • An existing building can be considered sustainable if it has been standing for a long time, e.g., 50 – 250 years, and will last for as many years in the future, if original materials are maintained and thereby obtains a permanent durability.
  • A new-built building can be considered sustainable if it is constructed with proved materials that have long-time durability, e.g., at least 200 – 250 years. The durability must be proved for all parts of the materials and constructions, based on experience and documentation from real life and in-situ constructions (with exception for e.g., thatched roofs and other materials that occasionally need replacing).
  • A building with a low usage of energy can be considered sustainable – although this is less important than long-time durability. Firstly, recorded use of energy is much more dependent on residents’ habits and use of a building than of the building itself. Secondly, most buildings can be provided with permanent energy-sources that are carbon dioxide neutral, and therefore have relatively small consequences for the climate.
  • Research shows that small and moderate measures are the most efficient according to the climate. Such measures also mean less unwanted consequences for the cultural heritage. There is a need for a regulatory text that supports further work in that direction.

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