European Directive and its implementation in France continued

The European Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) N°2010/31/UE of 19 May 2010 updates, for the 27 Member States of the European Union, the Action Plan which was established eight years ago by Directive N°2002/91/EC of 16 December 2002.

It is recalled in the introduction of the Directive, that buildings represent « 40% of total energy consumption of the Union » and thus constitutes an essential dimension of the European “Three 20 in 2020” policy (compared to 1990, minus 20% of greenhouse gas emissions, minus 20% of energy consumption, 20% of renewable energy, on average for the 27 European countries).

The target for new construction is ambitious: « Member States shall ensure that: a) by 31 December 2020, all new buildings are nearly zero energy buildings, b) after 31 December 2018, new buildings occupied and owned by public authorities are nearly zero energy « (Article 9). « Intermediate targets for improving the energy performance of new buildings by 2015 » will be defined.

Most of the other provisions of the Directive apply to existing buildings. The role of
energy performance certificates will be reinforced. The energy performance indicator of the certificates “is stated in the advertisements in commercial media » (Article 12).

Energy certificates must be checked on random sample (article 18). They will be “displayed in a prominent place clearly visible to the public » in all buildings of more than 500 m² « occupied by public authorities and frequently visited by the public”. The threshold will be 250 m² of 9 July 2015 (article 13).

« When buildings undergo major renovation, » they must « meet minimum energy performance requirements” (Article 7). The minimum threshold of 1,000 m² of the 2002 Directive is deleted. Satisfaction of minimum requirements may also apply to elements of renovated buildings.

“Minimum energy performance requirements shall be reviewed at regular intervals which shall not be longer than five years », for new and existing buildings (Article 4).

The setting of the minimum requirements will take account of the profitability of the investment over the estimated economic life cycle (article 4).

Inspections of heating and air conditioning systems will be strengthened (articles 14 and 15).

The directive must be transposed in the laws, regulations and administrative provisions of the 27 Member States before 9 July 2013.

For the implementation of the Directive in France, contrast is striking with the 2002 Directive!

The 2002 Directive had to be transposed before 4 January 2006. In France, the situation was clear: at that time, there was not a single text implementing the Directive!

The first text dated 24 May 2006, it is the rather modest 2005 Thermal Regulation (minus 15% of energy consumption compared to the 2000 Regulation).

The “Grenelle of Environment” in 2007 would radically change the picture. The “Grenelle of Environment” was, after Presidential elections, an original negotiation about climate change, biodiversity and environmental risks, between five bodies: government, local authorities, employers, unions and environment organizations.

It was curiously named “Grenelle”, remembering “Grenelle Agreement” between government, employers and unions after big May 1968 strikes.

We were seeing between 2007 and 2010 an avalanche of texts which put into practice, and sometimes beyond, the EU 2002 directive.  

New French policy was then formalized by Parliament through the so-called “Grenelle 1” law of 3 August 2009 and the “Grenelle 2” law of 12 July 2010.

Even before the publication of the EU Directive, the Grenelle 1 law states: « All new buildings
covered by a request for building permits filed after the end of 2020 will have, except some cases, a primary energy consumption less important than the amount of renewable energy produced in these buildings”. In other words, any new construction must be at that time a “positive energy” construction (Article 4)!

The intermediate target for improving the energy performance of new buildings, as required by Directive is ambitious: « All new construction covered by a request for building permits filed after the end of 2012 and, in anticipation of the end 2010 (in fact it will be the end 2011) in the case of non residential buildings and public buildings, have a primary energy consumption below a threshold of 50 kilowatt hours per square meter per year on average” (Article 4).

The French Thermal Regulation for new construction (minus 50% compared to the 2005 Regulation) becomes one of the most ambitious regulations in Europe and even the planet!

For existing assets, the missing link in the EU directive is specified: « The State’s goal is to reduce energy consumption in existing buildings of at least 38% by 2020” (Article 5). That means in 11 years a decreasing from an average of 240 kWh/m²/yr of primary energy consumption down to 150 kWh/m²/year, for 3.5 billion square meters of existing buildings!

The exemplary role of public sector put forward by the Directive is clarified: in the public sector, « renovation will aim to reduce by at least 40% energy consumption and at least 50% greenhouse gas emissions in these buildings within eight years « (Article 5).

About energy in the real estate advertisements, « from 1 January 2011 (…) the energy performance is mentioned in the advertisements relating to the sale or rental of real estate » (Article 1 Law Grenelle 2).

Laws Grenelle 1 and 2 also define obligations going beyond the energy issue (compulsory « green leases” in non residential buildings, labeling of pollutants, waste tracking, respect for biodiversity, carbon analysis integrating users transport, real estate assets consumptions and emissions controlled by local authorities “Climate and Energy Territorial Plans”…).

From a position of European bad boy, France now is among the very first! It remains now that these wonderful regulations really get into the reality of the Construction and Property sector, and practices of all professionals involved.