EU 2020 and EPD: the regulatory framework

What are the implications of the European EU 2020 strategy for your buildings? And what new standards apply to Energy Performance and Indoor Climate (EPD)?

The EU 2020 strategy is a benchmark for anyone active in the European economy. 'Sustainable growth' is one of the three priorities of this strategy, alongside 'smart growth' (investing in knowledge and innovation) and 'inclusive growth' (employment and creating opportunities for as many people as possible).

Sustainable ambitions: 20/20/20 by 2020

The EU is taking action to promote an economy that produces little CO2 and deals sparingly with the natural resources available. At a global level its aim is to help in the fight against climate warming and the greenhouse effect. At a corporate level the main benefit is lower energy bills. After all, there are finite supplies of oil, gas and coal, and demand in the emerging markets is increasing. Logic dictates that prices will only rise.

With its 20/20/20 policy the EU has tagged these sustainable ambitions with an easy-to-remember combination of digits. Its objectives for 2020 are:

  • A 20% improvement in the EU's energy efficiency
  • Raising the share of EU energy consumption produced from renewable resources to 20%
  • A 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions

It is up to the individual Member States to convert those EU 2020 objectives into concrete programmes, rules and standards.

In practice, this means new standards for energy performance and indoor climate (EPD)

What will those sustainability ambitions mean for your infrastructure in practice? As long as you are not erecting any new buildings or overhauling an existing building, absolutely nothing for now. At present, you are under no obligation to adapt existing premises to certain sustainability standards, although that is probably on the cards. For example, various consulting firms (e.g. Deloitte and PwC) have already clearly demonstrated the added value of aligning property taxation with the energy efficiency of buildings.

The situation is different if you have plans for a new building or major renovations. In that case, you will need to factor in the requirements with regard to energy performance and indoor climate (EPD). A summary:

Which buildings fall under this regulation?

Generally speaking, the EPD regulations apply to:

  • all buildings or parts of a building
  • that consume energy to achieve a specific indoor climate for people (heating and cooling)
  • for which an application for planning permission was submitted after 1 January 2006.

Admittedly, there are a number of exceptions. The following are not subject to the regulations:

  • unheated freestanding buildings such as garages, greenhouses and animal sheds
  • work for which the services of an architect are not mandatory ('simple file composition' submitted to the municipality) in a building, the protected volume of which is less than 3,000 m³ (this volume may vary per Region)
  • the reconstruction or extension of protected monuments and listed façades or buildings
  • buildings with a temporary permit, e.g. a portable office or classroom building
  • freestanding buildings with a total usable floor area of less than 50 m², e.g. a separate room for ticket sales at events.

What about your building or renovation project?

The specific EPD requirements that apply to your buildings depend on the building's designated use (e.g. industrial or office space), the nature of the works - new build or renovation - and the date on which the building permit is applied for. This is because standards are regularly being tightened up.

In addition, there are considerable regional differences. The Flemish Region, the Walloon Region and the Brussels-Capital Region have each developed their own regulations. They have the same objectives, but these are sometimes applied in a different way. For more detailed information go to:

Brussels: 'passive building' mandatory
In view of the unique situation in Brussels, where 70% of the CO2 emissions come from buildings, the Region has imposed especially stringent standards: from 2015 every new build or equivalent must be 'passive'. As this form of construction becomes the standard, buildings that are not 'passive' threaten to drop significantly in value before too long.

What exactly are the EPD requirements?

The EPD requirements focus on

  • thermal insulation and energy performance, the aim being to scale back energy consumption
  • indoor climate, the aim being to guarantee the air quality indoors

Requirements for thermal insulation and energy performance

In terms of thermal insulation, two values must be respected:

  • maximum K-level: the level of the overall heat insulation of the building, calculated for the building as a whole
  • maximum thermal heat loss coefficients (U-values) or thermal resistance (R-values) of the outside walls, floors, roofs, windows, doors and other partitions.

With regard to energy performance a maximum energy performance level is imposed, the E-level. That presents a picture of the primary energy consumption of the building and the fixed installations in standard circumstances. The E-level is calculated for each part of the building that is used separately or has a separate designated use.

The E-level is closely linked to a whole range of factors, including compactness, thermal insulation, air density, ventilation, heating installation, water supply, orientation, sun lighting, cooling installation and lighting.

Requirements for the indoor climate

The minimum requirements for ventilation define the ventilation provisions that must be installed (inlet - through flow - outlet) in order to achieve particular ventilation flow rates.

How the EPD requirements are actually implemented in practice depends on:

  • The nature of the works: new build, rebuild, dismantling, extension, renovation, change of use, etc.
  • The designated use of the building: office, industry, retail, catering, etc.
  • The date of the application for the planning permission: the EPD standards are becoming tighter and tighter.

A building that has several uses or activities, will be split into various parts. The EPD requirements will be determined for each part.

How does the EPD procedure work?

The procedure consists of three steps:

  1. During the design phase, you and the architect together will analyse the energy performance level of the building and the measures required to comply with the EPD requirements. You will also add a statement to the planning permission.
  2. Before work starts, you will submit a statement of commencement to the energy performance database. In it, you will declare compliance with the EPD requirements and nominate an EPD reporter or adviser. The latter will draw up the EPD declaration, using a calculation from the EPD software package.
  3. After commissioning of the building, you must submit evidence of compliance with the EPD requirements by means of the EPD report.

The EPD reporter does not necessarily need to be an external expert: he or she may already be involved in the site. The reporter is responsible for correctly reporting on the execution of the works, but not for the requirements actually being met.

In other words, always make sure the project specifications take into account the EPD requirements and include the necessary steps to meet them. Otherwise, the actual energy performance may deviate significantly from the objectives set out in the EPD procedure.



Sustainability: EU bestows pioneering role on public sector

In its efforts to achieve more energy efficiency, the EU has raised the bar most for the public and social profit sector. How does your organisation take on this challenge?

A substantial part of built-up areas in the EU is managed or used by the public and social profit sector. Schools, for example, where one in three European citizens spend most of their days, but also government buildings, hospitals, universities, inter-municipal companies, etc. The joint energy cost of these buildings is enormous, so the potential savings of more efficient energy use are huge as well.

That is why the EU is making 'green' and sustainable public buildings an absolute priority. The 2020 strategy on energy performance and indoor climate will therefore come into effect two years earlier: from 1 January 2019, all new buildings used or owned by the authorities must be Nearly Zero Energy Buildings. So time is running out.

New developments: the tip of the iceberg

Existing properties are certainly also in urgent need of work. Because of rising energy costs, more sustainable long-term energy use is essential, particularly in the current budget situation. This is all the more true because many public buildings have been around for a long time without being energy efficient. They also tend to have a longer life span than residential or industrial buildings.

Given that the budget for new developments or major renovations is often insufficient, it comes down to making the best use of the buildings' energy-saving potential. This means primarily using renewable energy.

How will you take on the challenge?

Innovation and creativity are key here. Some examples can be found below:

  • More and more contracting authorities are placing a strong emphasis on sustainability and energy efficiency when issuing public tenders by making these issues more important tender criteria, for example.
  • The original American system of Energy Performance Contracting (EPC) is slowly being established in Europe as well. In this type of contract, the client and the provider of energy-saving work determine in advance the energy efficiency level the work should result in. If the provider does not meet its commitments, damages or penalties will ensue.
    In our country, EPCs are generally concluded with Energy Service Companies or ESCOs. Their task is to study, implement and finance energy-saving measures in public buildings. They can be government bodies or private participation initiatives. Some examples of this are Eandis and Infrax, which established ESCOs in Flanders, and Publifin, which did the same in Wallonia.
    More information about EPC and ESCOs is available on the website of the Belgian ESCO association BELESCO.
  • Green local authorities are leading the way: In 2008, the European Commission launched the European Covenant of Mayors against climate change. Local authorities signing the covenant voluntarily committed to achieving the EU climate and energy objectives on their territories. Put simply, their commitment essentially aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2020.
    As part of the Covenant of Mayors, the local authorities prepare Sustainable Energy Action Plans, which are often dozens of pages long. First, these lengthy documents outline the local CO2 emissions, and then describe the strategic objectives and concrete action plans. Local authorities are committed to planting more public greenery, participating in the Night of Darkness and using energy-efficient lighting, for example.
    Some of the activities involve residents, who are encouraged to use car-sharing schemes, buy regional products or products without any packaging. Companies are also encouraged to play their part. They are urged to use renewable energy, possibly as part of a joint purchasing group.
  • Still hungry for more sustainable ideas? If so, check out Local Governments for Sustainability, an organisation with 1,500 local government members sharing sustainability practices, who offer some excellent examples. Vitoria-Gasteiz in the Basque Country (northern Spain) created a vast green belt, for example. More than 33,000 trees of 70 different types were planted, and soon another 250,000 will be added. This planting campaign has reintroduced greenery to more than 50 locations that were completely bare until recently.
    The city has also focused strongly on cycling and public transport, which proved very successful: in eight years, the share of urban traffic accounted for by cars fell from 37% to 24%. The city also granted €4.6 million in subsidies for the renovation of old houses. More than 10,000 houses now have better insulation and improved energy efficiency.


What types of energy-efficient buildings are there?

You can go as far as you like with sustainable building. There is already good public awareness about low-energy and 'passive' building, but more can be done.

Below, we have listed a few types of energy-saving buildings. However, there is still occasional debate on what to call the different types - different countries and authorities use different names and definitions, depending on the subsidies that they issue.

Low-energy building

  • Consumes between 50 and 60% less energy than a 'normal' building
  • Compact, well-insulated and airtight building envelope
  • Well-conceived, facing the sun (or away from the sun) with modified windows and sun screens

'Passive building'

  • Consumes hardly any energy (for heating, cooling, appliances, etc.)
  • Compact, optimally insulated and extremely airtight building envelope
  • Windows on the sunniest side of the building (passive heat gain)
  • Good balanced ventilation, supplemented with heating elements where necessary

Zero-energy building

  • 'Passive building' that also meets its own energy needs: the necessary energy is generated on site via photovoltaic panels or similar techniques

Nearly Zero Energy Building (nZEB)

  • Europe uses the term nZEB buildings or Nearly Zero Energy Buildings for the almost energy-neutral building that in Belgium is still referred to as a 'zero-energy building'.
  • 'Passive building' that provides its own energy for heating and cooling (equipped with technologies that produce renewable energy and hot water for heating and bathrooms, usually solar panels and a solar boiler)

Active building

  • Zero-energy building that generates more renewable energy on site than it actually consumes.
  • The energy bill is zero. The surplus energy produced is fed into the grid in exchange for renewable energy certificates.

All new builds to be nZEB by 2021

Europe has said that all new build projects must be nearly zero energy buildings (nZEB) by 2021. Currently the Member States are still examining how they will mesh this requirement with their own regulations and which standards they will impose on which types of buildings. After all, making a production unit an nZEB is a very different kettle of fish from doing the same with a new office building.



Investing in sustainable energy pays off

Respecting legislation is one aspect. However, opting for renewable energy and better energy efficiency offers a host of other advantages.

What types of renewable energy are there?

  • Solar energy (photovoltaic or thermal energy), from the sun's rays
  • Wind power
  • Geothermal energy, or extraction of heat from the ground
  • Biomass energy, from organic substances such as wood, biofuels (distilled from vegetable matter such as rape seed or beet) or biogas
  • Hydraulic energy, produced by water flow

The advantages of renewable energy

  • Cost savings: Your energy dependency and increasing energy prices will start to weigh increasingly heavily on your budget. These factors may also have an impact on your activities in the future and therefore threaten your production capacity and competitiveness. Moreover, and certainly in a period of slow economic growth, it is important for your company to keep costs down, and that includes energy costs.
  • Risk Management: Belgium depends to a significant extent on external suppliers for its energy supply. That dependency, linked to continuous price increases, entails obvious risks: it weakens our economy and threatens the competitiveness of our market players. Therefore, it is important that you as a company consider the switch to sustainable energy and incorporate it in your strategy. By investing in renewable energy or in the energy performance of your buildings (via solar panels, wind turbines, powerful heating boilers, etc.), you are in fact setting the price of the electricity that you generate or save through your installations, for the entire life of these installations. As such, you are less subject to energy price fluctuations.
  • Image and social commitment: By making its activities more sustainable, your company can also increase its positive impact on the environment, and - in a broader context - its commitment to society. By placing the emphasis more on corporate responsibility, your company becomes more attractive and benefits from an improved image. This is because green awareness is essential in the eyes of employees, customers, shareholders and public opinion.

Small actions that make the difference

Often, a few simple adaptations or measures can dramatically improve the energy efficiency of your company:

  • an energy audit of your buildings is an excellent starting point. This tells you immediately where the biggest 'energy eaters' are, and how you can do something about it.
  • is the company's ambient or high efficiency boiler more than 15 years old? Replace it with a new condensing boiler and save between 15% and 30% on heating costs.
  • a heat exchanger on the ventilation system can recuperate up to 85% of the heat from the extracted air.
  • many industrial processes lend themselves to energy recuperation. An air pre-heater on a steam boiler can raise the efficiency by between 3% and 5%, for example.
  • an air compressor is best installed in a cool room: if the temperature of the intake air falls by 5°C, the efficiency increases by 1.5%.
  • companies lose on average 20% to 40% of their compressed air. Therefore make sure you check regularly that there are no pressure leaks. Moreover, the pressure of the compressed air installation is best set as low as possible. You can save 8% on your electricity bill for each bar less of pressure.
  • in an office environment computers, printers and other office equipment can account for more than a quarter of the total electricity consumption. So, switch off the machines if they are not being used.
  • fluorescent bulbs (strip lights) that are only glowing at the ends use three times more electricity than normal. The message here is: make sure you replace them promptly.


Sustainable Energy Services: tailor-made support for your ‘green’ projects

'Green' investing is a must for an increasing number of companies and organisations, for a variety of reasons. To do so successfully, they need expert advice.

There are many reasons to start investing in ‘green’ projects. On the one hand there is, of course, the financial aspect - cost reduction or subsidies - and the legal framework, but on the other it is also often done under pressure from the shareholders, employees, customers or suppliers.

However, it is not always easy for a company or an organisation to adhere constantly to evolving regulations and government measures. Furthermore, the techniques for exploiting natural energy sources and achieving improved energy efficiency are still very specialised, while the potential profit or saving is sometimes difficult to put into figures.

Therefore you can call on the services of Sustainable Energy Services at BNP Paribas Fortis. These experts in renewable energy and energy efficiency can offer you first line advice for your projects and, together with you, work out the most appropriate solutions.

A multidisciplinary approach

Investment projects in sustainable energy and energy efficiency are very specific. Therefore they require a global and yet differentiated approach by the banks. Moreover, project developers, investors, design consultancies, clients and financing institutions would be well advised to collaborate and consult right from the design stage and the feasibility study for the projects. Quentin Nerincx, adviser at Sustainable Energy Services:

"In order for us to be able to provide the best possible advice, it is important for any business with a 'green' project to involve us right from the planning stage. That gives us the opportunity to analyse in detail the feasibility, risks and earning potential of the project, and - where necessary - make a number of suggestions. Because, the stronger the business case and the better the project fits in with the strategic vision of the company or the organisation, the greater the chance any application for financing has of succeeding.

That is because all too often banks receive incomplete or overly optimistic dossiers, for which it is difficult to obtain guarantees. In those instances, the party submitting the dossier runs the risk of the project being rejected because it is inadequate in terms of technical analysis, calculation of the earning potential or compliance with the regulatory framework."

Service that goes beyond banking

You can rely on Sustainable Energy Services for:

  • a study into the feasibility of your project
  • an analysis of the technical and financial risks
  • information and guidance regarding government aid and the applicable statutory and regulatory framework
  • monitoring the investment dossier
  • the comparison of different financing mechanisms, e.g. traditional bank loan, leasing, energy performance contract (also known as a third-party investor)

This will give you a better handle on your project (risks, earning potential, costs, benefits) and ensure you benefit from tailor-made financing.

Are you planning a construction, renovation or energy project?

Please do not hesitate to involve your relationship manager, who can also put you in touch with the specialists at Sustainable Energy Services if you so wish.

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