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Joint statement to the European Commission: Affordable, safe and accessible way to decarbonize the European housing stock

On October 28, 2021, Housing sector organizations released a joint statement on decarbonization of the EU housing stock, calling the European Commission (EC) to implement 6 key sets of recommendations that can ensure healthier and safer environments for all citizens. Find out what the recommendations are and why their implementation is inevitable.

In their statement addressed to the EC asks to ensure that the transition towards a decarbonized housing stock will maintain its affordability, safety and accessibility. The timing of this initiative is driven by the foreseen EU policy developments with respect to climate policies, in particular the upcoming proposal for amending the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) planned for December 2021, and notwithstanding the Renovation Wave Strategy and Fit for 55 developments.

Ten signatories of the statement act under the umbrella of the European Housing Forum coalition. The coalition brings together major international or European organizations that represent the entire housing sector, including housing consumers, providers, and professionals. Habitat for Humanity International (HFHI) has joined the signatories as well.

HFHI contributed with its review of the proposed statement and highlighted the need for specific approach to alleviate energy poverty in Central and Eastern Europe and Commonwealth of Independent States region (CEE/CIS), and the case for renovation of multi-apartment buildings, community building and support of homeowner associations in this regard.

In the joint statement, the signatories emphasize the need for “affordability” being a guiding principle when it comes to Renovation Wave Strategy. In parallel, to mitigate the affordability risks, they point out that the EC must refine the financial components of the Strategy so that the funds are sufficient and targeted, and the allocation mechanisms transparent and safeguarded. Furthermore, for successful implementation of the Strategy, the legislative requirements of the proposed policies within the Strategy must be fit for purpose, meaning they must be flexible, progressive, and cost-effective. For a quality Renovation Wave, the Strategy must incorporate a holistic and integrated view of buildings and their renovation. That is an approach that “beyond energy efficiency seeks to improve well-being and comfort of occupants, technology-neutrality as well as the heritage and use values of buildings”.

Therefore, the coalition recommends the following:

    1. Prioritize measures that demonstrably lead to the greatest CO2 reductions for the lowest costs for building owners and residents;
    2. Refrain from one-size-fits-all solutions;
    3. Guarantee that any introduction of new mandatory requirements, including MEPS are led by a sectoral and progressive approach, cost-effectiveness guiding principle and flexibility and focus on the overall objective rather than specific and detailed measures;
    4. Activate dedicated funding
    5. Enable quality and targeted training and re/up-skilling of workers and professionals across the sector (construction workers, assessors for respective tools etc.)
    6. Ensure the establishment, address the current bottleneck and facilitate the efficient management and long-term sustainment of One-Stop-Shops (OSS) to provide assistance and support for renovation to the various segments of the housing sector and the various ownership structure.

 


Find out more about the recommendations by checking out the full version of the Statement here.

 

Habitat for Humanity Armenia (HFH Armenia) has recorded the first success in its advocacy efforts in reforming the legislation on residential buildings management in Armenia. In December 2020, the Government of Armenia approved “Decision on Bank Account Opening and Servicing Procedure” for the implementation of mandatory and other payments set by the “Law on Residential Buildings Management”. What does it mean in practice? Each building shall have a separate bank account for the management of its funds, which will increase the overall transparency of the fund management for each building. In addition to this, by the decision of the homeowners assembly, they can set up a separate reserve fund account for each building to be used to cover the expenses related to the unforeseen accidental renovation works in the building, as well as other expenses related to the operation and betterment of the buildings.

Until the end of the last year, Armenian homeowners had been suffering from the lack of proper and systemic regulation on maintenance of residential buildings and its commonly owned shared spaces. The recommendation proposed by HFH Armenia had been advocated since 2015, accompanied by many side events and activities. Let’s see together what stands behind this housing problem by looking at the history of its residential buildings maintenance system, its weaknesses and negative impacts and the benefits resulting from a successful policy change that has come into power just at the end of 2020.

Buildings in Yerevan, Armenia

Buildings in Yerevan, Armenia

 

History of the residential multi-unit buildings maintenance in Armenia

Before 1990, Armenia was part of the USSR, the communist block of countries. The collective housing dwellings under the communist era were both state-owned and state-managed. In practice, this meant that the state was not only the owner of the residential multi-unit buildings but it was also responsible for the maintenance of these buildings. State building maintenance companies were in charge of these maintenance services and works.

In Armenia, with the fall of the communist regime, a huge wave of privatization took place and transformed not only the economic system but also the housing ownership structures. Due to this process,  the ownership of the housing stock went from the hands of the state to the hands of the homeowners who formed homeowner associations or other management bodies for the management and maintenance of the buildings. However, due to the lack of proper management of the buildings, low collection rates and certain gaps in the respective legislation, the technical condition of multi-apartment buildings has been continuously deteriorating.

In numerous countries of the former Soviet Union, the former state building maintenance companies turned into private entities and continued with the maintenance services for these buildings, reporting to the newly established homeowner associations consisting of private owners of housing units. Each building established its own bank account and was in charge of its own financing, accompanied by the assistance and services provided by the private maintenance companies.

However, in Armenia, the legislation did not set requirements for opening and maintaining a bank account for each building separately, which often created uncertainty in the minds of homeowners regarding the use of their funds set by mandatory norms.

Hence, lacking regulation and rules on the responsibilities and competencies of buildings’ management bodies, and lack of loyalty of homeowners towards the management body of their building resulted in a rather unsystematic collection of money. This became the main issue to the actual maintenance of the Armenian residential multi-unit building stock.

 

Escaping the ineffective system

HFH Armenia identified this issue and started to develop recommendations that would solve the problem of misfunctioning financing and capacities within the home-owner associations, their position and their role in the system. They referred to the need of specifying minimum mandatory norms for management, maintenance and exploitation of the multi-unit housing stock and the establishment of the control system improvement mechanisms. In this way, the implementation of mandatory norms and renovation works, maintenance and servicing would become more accessible for the homeowners.

HFH Armenia saw it essential to create a law that would make it mandatory to open a separate bank account for each building by the residential building management body. Thanks to this step, it would allow even for opening a savings account for each building managed. Therefore, a portion generated from maintenance fee collection for the maintenance fund could be transferred to this saving account and contribute to the overall financial stability of buildings’ owners.

The most significant result of such an action is making the residential building management bodies a reliable player, possessing its own finances and with the ability to manifest its spending and savings upon the need, or for example, when applying for a loan for reconstruction works.

Building in Yerevan, Armenia

Building in Yerevan, Armenia

Advocating for a change

In order to actually realize the proposed policy change, HFH Armenia has been working hard to advocate for these changes since 2015. The work has started with the support of the Visegrad Fund thanks to which the resources were allocated to the preparation of the primary research paper about the housing situation of residential multi-unit buildings in Armenia. Then, HFH Armenia developed and submitted a set of recommendations to the State Development Urban Committee, organized two roundtable discussions with the government representatives in Yerevan. The Armenian case was presented also during one of the roundtable discussions organized under the UN-Energy Summit in Yerevan in 2015. Moreover, they contributed to the REELIH regional conference organized by Habitat for Humanity International and USAID in Brussels in 2017 where several government representatives were present as well. Additionally, they participated in the three Working Group meetings set to develop the reform of the residential building management law in Armenia.

UN - Energy For Sustainable Development Forum 2015

UN-Energy For Sustainable Development Forum 2015

 

Benefitting citizens and local communities

With the change of the residential building management law, numerous benefits for the homeowners and their homeowner associations are coming. Thanks to the fact that each building, from now by law, has to have its own finances managed on a separate bank account, the process of maintenance works and renovation of the buildings becomes easier and more accessible. Among the main benefits are:

Before and After of muti-apartment building renovation

Before and After of muti-apartment building renovation

In Habitat for Humanity, we believe that for homeowner associations, mixed financing schemes are the best and most effective solutions for maintenance and renovation works of the commonly owned spaces of the buildings. The mixed financing consists of three elements:

The three mentioned ways of financing are only possible when the homeowner associations have direct power over their own resources. Thus, thanks to this policy change, the Armenian homeowner associations are becoming more stable, self-sufficient and in the end, fully-fledged market players.

 

Empowering communities and its common interests

Along with the work done in advocating for the change of the law on the national level, HFH Armenia has been working on a local level, too. As the current system resulted in huge mistrust in the maintenance companies, it was inevitable to start developing a sense of ownership between the flat-owners towards the shared space of their properties. This activity was done in order to develop trust among the owners and their deepened willingness to contribute to the funds and being supportive of the investment into their buildings once the law changes.

In this respect, HFH Armenia advocated for the creation of mechanisms for awareness-raising on housing stock energy efficiency. The prefabricated buildings that were built during the communist era are highly energy inefficient and have a further negative impact on people who spend a high amount of money on energy bills. Through the introduction of training courses related to housing stock energy efficiency in primary, and education programs in secondary, the citizens would become aware of their possibilities and motivated to invest in their buildings.

In 2019, as part of its awareness-raising activities, HFH Armenia has conducted training for homeowners on energy efficiency measures in the buildings. The post-training behavior change monitoring survey showed that 72% of respondents started saving energy in their apartments after participating in the training through:

This activity demonstrates the efficiency of trainings on the behavior change of the tenants towards a smarter use of energy at home and implementation of other energy-saving measures.

 

The fight is not at the end

It will take some time for the new law to fully bring its benefits as there appeared new challenges in the implementation process. Change in the payment system from cash to online brings about one of the biggest issues. It now requires homeowners to make non-cash payments directly to the bank account and most tenants simply do not pay, because there is no one going and knocking on their doors for collecting the fee, as they were used to in past. Moreover, especially pensioners are not used to going to banks to make payments, as well as they are not even aware of the possibilities of online payment methods. Hence, in the short run, the collection rate of maintenance fees has dropped but is expected to grow after the change is well communicated with the homeowners. HFH Armenia has already started discussions with the Yerevan Municipality to run awareness-raising campaigns to make the transition to the new payment method faster and smooth.

Yerevan Municipality Roundtable

Yerevan Municipality Roundtable

To add, it is necessary to create new, effective enforcement mechanisms for payments of mandatory fees, as the current one proves not to be that efficient. Therefore, as a next step, HFH Armenia has started advocating for having a better enforcement mechanism for mandatory payments via submitting its recommendation to the State Urban Development Committee.

The last remaining, and probably the biggest challenge, is the creation of the saving accounts for the buildings. Under the current law, the homeowners of the buildings have to create their basic bank accounts and store their funds there which allows them to have control of their spending in the first place. The additional saving accounts would give even more reliability to the homeowner associations, but unfortunately, this recommendation was accepted only as a voluntary and recommended action. HFH Armenia plans to further advocate to make the creation of the saving fund mandatory to ensure even more financial stability for the multi-unit buildings, as well as advocate for setting more efficient enforcement mechanisms towards the betterment of the collection of mandatory fees.

The Armenian advocacy success is proof that hard and systematic work and dedication can really make a change. Fingers crossed for HFH Armenia in their future work.


Find more information about HFH Armenia here.

The office of the Government of the Czech Republic organized a seminar in Prague on the 12th December, 2019 to present a new policy paper and a study called Energy Poverty in the Danube Region.

The research was co-funded by the European Union (ERDF) and was done by Czech Technical University in Prague. The study is also a part of the EU Strategy program for the Danube Region (EUSDR) which is a macro-regional strategy adopted by the European Commission.

One of EUSDR’s priority areas is Sustainable Energy and works on three main objectives – coordination of regional energy policies, helping to implement the EU energy acquis, and launching cutting edge technology developments to increase energy efficiency of the region.

About the publication

Defining energy poverty

It is evident that the definition of energy poverty which was proposed last year by Covenant of Mayors in publication Alleviating energy poverty becomes more and more used as a keystone of energy poverty research. The study of Danube Region is not an exception to this tendency. Indifferently, the study identifies the lack of clear and universal definition as a threat to the research in this area as it could bring clarity into understanding the scope of this topic, especially considering the mobility within the definition.

“A situation where a household or an individual is unable to afford basic energy services (heating, cooling, lighting, mobility and power) to guarantee a decent standard of living due to a combination of low income, high energy expenditure and low energy efficiency of their homes”

Danube Region is a large region with different historical influences, cultures, wealth or living standards and energy poverty varies significantly between these countries. Moreover, the region consists of both EU Member States and non-EU countries.

The estimated number of people at risk of energy poverty in the European Union is between 10% and 25% of the population.

 

EU Strategy for the Danube Region - map. From https://danube-region.eu/about/


Indicators of energy poverty

The study identifies three main drivers of energy poverty which are then accompanied by varying secondary drivers. The main three indicators are:

The cause of energy poverty, however, cannot be sought only in these general identifiers. They rather intersect and connect to a wide range of social changes and phenomena, such as unemployment or low paid jobs, property seizures, poor thermal efficiency and low-quality housing connected with increase of fuel prices. Moreover, deregulation and privatization of housing and energy sector lead to change of perception of energy from being a public good to a general commodity on market.

Another dimension includes the age, education, health and family situations as social drivers of energy poverty. If we add the incapability or missing interest of local or state governments to cope with this situation, we come to a full image of energy poverty in all specific dimensions.

Energy poverty is not only about availability or affordability. Similarly, it is about (in)efficiency and flexibility of energy services that meet the needs of households.

Apart from talking about the drivers of energy poverty, it is likewise crucial to identify the areas of life impacted by energy poverty. This publication uses the Eurostat framework of 8+1 dimensions of quality of life to define further energy poverty impact. These are:

As in the case of main and secondary indicators of energy poverty, all these indicators of life quality have to be considered simultaneously because of potential trade-offs between them. The publication provides useful examples of how different areas of life are affected by energy poverty, like the following.

Energy poverty and bad living conditions have negative effect on children's performance in school.

 

With high energy bills, there is a little or no money left for leisure activities or sudden expenses.

 

The question is, what can the state do to improve the situation? Through legislation, regulations, counselling and social work, subsidies, technical solutions and other types of measure, state can help the people suffering from energy poverty. Of course, it is crucial to define the vulnerable groups for which the previous factors serve as guidance in this process.

Cooperation

Apart from national governments, there are many international institutions and organizations supporting the solutions to energy poverty and not only in the Danube Region. Examples of such activities can be found in the activities and projects of International Energy Agency, Ashoka, Energy Sector Management Assistance Program, ENGAGER, EU Energy Poverty Observatory, Right to Energy Coalition or Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy.

Energy Poverty Documents used in Study on Energy Poverty in Danube Region

Participation with such platforms is a good way to learn how to do things, and avoid mistakes already made or even share own experience with others. For example, the EU Energy Observatory can inspire others with their projects and connect with other relevant organizations. Covenant of Mayors is a relevant platform for another specific type of stakeholders-municipalities. Moreover, The Policy Paper on Energy Poverty in the Danube Region, offers a guidance on replicating success of already implemented projects:

 

Good practice

The EVALUATE project

Energy Vulnerability and Urban Transitions in Europe was a European Research Council funded project that took place between 2013 and 2018. Its goal was to investigate how urban institutional structures, built tissues and everyday practices shape energy vulnerability at a variety of geographical scale.

The project consisted of deep research in four Eastern and Central European post-communist areas: Gdańsk (Poland), Prague (Czech Republic), Budapest (Hungary) and Skopje (Republic of Macedonia).

The initial premise of the project says that providing affordable energy in cities depends on ensuring adequate match between housing types, heating systems and household needs on one side, and incomes and energy efficiency on the other. It succeeded in overcoming the short-sighted approach of focusing solely on poverty and access to energy efficiency. This research rather shows more complex issues of resilience and precariousness, investigating multiple social and spacial dimensions of energy vulnerability in the four mentioned areas.

The project resulted in numerous publications on energy poverty and vulnerability within the region and many of them are considered a crucial contribution to the multi-dimensional issue-solving.


Find more information about the study and policy paper Energy Poverty in the Danube Region here.

Find more information about the EVALUATE project here.

Habitat for Humanity contributed to the new UNECE Guidelines on the Management and Ownership of Condominium Housing thanks to being part of Real Estate Market Advisory Group.

UNECE Real Estate Market Advisory Group consists of specialists assisting the Committee on Housing and Land Management and the Working Party on Land Administration to develop stronger housing real estate markets. Its activities include discussion of energy efficient housing, affordable and social housing, its financing and others.

Being a member of this group, we were able to contribute to reviewing of original document of Guidelines on Condominium Ownership of Housing for Countries in Transition published in 2003. While this original guideline was mostly targeting the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, the new Guidelines on the Management and Ownership of Condominium Housing focuses on all the UNECE countries; including Western Europe, the United States and Canada. Successfully updated publication of guidelines was formally approved on October 4th, 2018 during the 79th session of the UNECE Committee on Housing and Land Management held in Geneva.

Throughout the last year, this small group of specialists was meeting regularly and discussed many challenges not only of Central and Eastern European region. HFHI  comments and messages touched exclusively the CEE and CIS countries based on our experience and expertise in this region. Thanks to our REELIH project and regional advocacy done in relation to it, we took this chance to push our messages and provided professional advice.

As the cornerstones for our claims we used three documents developed in regards to REELIH project and Visegrad Four project in Armenia done by HFH Armenia:

HOW TO IMPROVE RESIDENTIAL ENERGY EFFICIENCY IN SOUTH EASTERN EUROPE AND CIS:
POLICY DISCUSSION BRIEF FOR NATIONAL GOVERNMENTS AND INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS

ANALYSIS OF SUBSIDY SCHEMES AIMING TO SUPPORT ENERGY EFFICIENT RENOVATION OF MULTI-FAMILY BUILDINGS IN SELECTED COUNTRIES OF CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE:
LESSONS FOR ARMENIA AND BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA

LEGAL-REGULATORY SOLUTIONS FOR STRENGHTENING CIVIC INVOLVEMENT IN CONDOMINIUM MANAGEMENT IN ARMENIA:
UTILIZING THE KNOWLEDGE WEALTH FROM VISEGRAD STATES AND UKRAINE


 

Rapid rate of privatization of public housing, lack of maintenance and rising energy costs led to the emergence of low-income homeowners phenomenon and their inability to cope with the situation. Moreover, the collective decision-making of new homeowners brought other complications, that ended up with slow deterioration of multi-apartment buildings.

 

Hence, our main contributions to the updated condominium management guidelines included:


Find more information about condominium management guidelines here.

Find the press release about new publication here.

The crumbling legacy of misguided 20th century housing policies casts a towering shadow over every major town in the Visegrád Four. Town after town. City after city. Country after country. Despite the economic growth observed in many CEE countries during the last decade, the vast majority of residential buildings in this part of Europe is in desperate need of renovation.

We simply take neglect for granted and forget that there are millions of lives trapped behind all that cheap concrete and peeling paint.

We forget the sickening misery of freezing apartments in winter and suffocating rooms in summer. We forget the distress of no money to pay bills and the despair of low-income poor health. That is the reason why more than 25 experts from Visegrád countries joined forces at the recent Central and Eastern Energy Efficiency Forum (C4E) to demand immediate and concerted action from their governments.

The human cost of poor housing is clear from official statistics. In Slovakia, for example, people pay the highest energy bills per income in the European Union and there are 3,000 premature deaths annually due to air pollution caused by heating with solid fuels1. Those living in unsatisfactory housing conditions suffer from up to 2.9 times more frequent health issues than others in their country2.

Across Visegrád, two-thirds of residential buildings need renovating. And for those who consider lives in financial terms — those buildings are costing society up to €11.2 billion in health care every year 3.

Yet, Visegrád Governments have an historic opportunity to create housing renovation policies that really deliver. At the C4E, experts from Buildings for the Future in Slovakia, the Hungarian Energy Efficiency Institute, Chance for Buildings in the Czech Republic and Poland’s National Energy Efficiency Agency called on governments to maximise the opportunities for change presented by negotiations surrounding the new multiannual European Union budget and the implementation of revised EU directives promoting energy efficiency.

All Member States must transpose the Energy Efficiency Directive and Energy Performance of Buildings Directive and reveal how they will achieve national energy savings targets. Improving buildings to make them energy efficient will accelerate progress to achieve these targets and help the most vulnerable in society.

The Visegrád experts agree the broad strokes are these:

We can no longer afford to ignore the misery of people caged in appalling housing. Every time we pass another collective of blocks must be a reminder that we can do better. Must do better. Together.

As Public Affairs Manager for Knauf Insulation in Slovakia, Peter Robl advocates for public policies promoting energy efficient and sustainable buildings. Peter initiated the Building for the Future alliance back in 2013 and has since developed it into the leading voice of the construction industry in the public debate, representing more than 150 companies with aggregated Net Sales of EUR 1.7 bn.

European Commission's Directorate-General for Energy and the Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises prepared a guide that gathers more than 60 good practices meant to support a clean energy transition in the CESEC[1] region. It was launched at the Sustainable Energy Investment Forum that took place on 28 June in Sofia, followed by the CESEC High Level Group Ministerial meeting on 29 June. The good practices presented in the guide are the results from projects supported by the Intelligent Energy Europe and Horizon 2020 programmes addressing key energy efficiency areas of relevance for the CESEC region.

The projects provide examples of actions that have already or are expected to have a significant impact in the targeted regions, as well as best practice methods that could be replicated in the future. The guide also includes a short country-by-country analysis, which provides an overview of the key energy efficiency indicators, such as energy consumption trends concerning primary and final energy consumption, and energy intensity levels per sector of activity (industry, transport, residential and services).

Good practice example projects were grouped into the following topics:

Read the publication online here.

[1] Central and South-Eastern European Energy Connectivity (CESEC) initiative brings together nine EU Member States - Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia, and eight Energy Community Contracting Parties - Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia and Ukraine

Written by Audrey Nugent, Senior Policy Advisor, World Green Building Council

Today, the European Commission demonstrated its sustainability leadership by unveiling the pilot phase of Level(s), the world’s first region-wide sustainable building reporting tool. Level(s) has high ambitions, aiming to transform the European building market from its current role as a major contributor to climate change, to one which has more positive impacts on both the environment and society.

As the Senior Policy Advisor to WorldGBC’s Europe Regional Network (ERN), the arrival of Level(s) is particularly exciting. And here’s why…

What is Level(s) and how is it different?

Level(s) is described as an “open source assessment framework” – in simpler terms, a tool, which can be used by those involved in buildings (such as planners, architects, developers and occupiers) to measure the sustainability performance of them.

What makes Level(s) different is that for the first time it provides a framework for measurement that goes beyond just energy, which, up until now, has been used as the main indicator of sustainable performance.  Critically, Level(s) factors in other key aspects of building performance such as greenhouse gas emissions, efficient use of water resources, health and wellbeing, adaptation and resilience to climate change, and cost and value.

Level(s) promotes circular thinking - encouraging its users to think about the whole life cycle of a building – from the manufacturing of the products and materials used to construct it, the energy used to operate it, through to its deconstruction and the eventual re-use and recycling of those materials.

Why is this significant?

The concept of a green building is relatively easy to understand: they use less energy, water and materials; are healthy and comfortable; provide value for money; and are better for the environment. However, understanding and applying the indicators to construct a green building is inherently more complex. Level(s) seeks to reduce this complexity by focusing attention on the most important aspects of a building’s performance, providing a simple entry point for anyone who wants to introduce this circular thinking into building projects.

Christine Lemaitre, CEO of the German Sustainable Building Council (DGNB) and Chair of the ERN, sums this up, by saying: “The release of Level(s) shifts the EU buildings debate beyond energy, and lays the foundations for a common approach based on lifecycle and circular thinking.”

Who will benefit?

Level(s) is the result of years of discussion and development with the building and construction industry, non-profit organisations (such as Green Building Councils) and the public sector – and they all stand to benefit.

It will enable governments of all sizes across Europe to incorporate the concept of the circular economy into their own national plans and strategies, and ensure these are aligned with European priorities and efforts to tackle climate change. As Harri Hakaste, Senior Architect at the Ministry of the Enviornment, Finland, says "Level(s) sets the direction of travel and provides clarity on sustainable building at EU level for all stakeholders. Finland has set out its vision on dealing with lifecycle impacts and is committed to testing and developing the Level(s) scheme forward."

At an event organised by GBCFinland and Stora Enso in Helsinki in May, attendees from the Finnish Government, Skanska, the City of Helsinki, Saint-Gobain, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and many others discussed the potential impact of Level(s) on the Finnish market, and explored how it might be implemented in local conditions.

This workshop demonstrated that  industry recognises the potential of Level(s) to transform Europe’s buildings. “Industry needed a common language to help move the focus beyond just energy,” says Roy Antink, SVP, International Policy Coordination, Sustainability at Stora Enso. “This aligns the EU buildings agenda more firmly with many leading initiatives and will help drive a more holistic CO2 agenda by addressing embodied carbon.”

Echoing this view, Anna Åkesson, Senior Environmental Manager, Skanska (also a Partner of the ERN), sets out her belief that: “Level(s) sets the strategic direction for sustainable building in Europe and it is critical that stakeholders across Europe work together to develop an implementation strategy that facilities European wide take-up of Level(s).

Ultimately, everyone stands to benefit from Level(s) as a result of greener buildings – whether socially through better places to live, work and play, economically through more jobs or increased productivity in the workplace, or from an environmental perceptive – fewer greenhouse gas emissions and improved air quality in cities, to name just two benefits.

So who will drive Level(s) forward?

This is where our Green Building Councils have a key role to play. They are best placed to lead the charge on implementing Level(s) because of their expertise across a range of areas including green public procurement, awareness raising, certification and policy. Their relationships with their members - the very businesses who will be using Level(s) on a day-to-day basis in their own countries - is also critical. With their support, Level(s) can have a major impact on the green building market at a national and regional level.

What’s next for Level(s)?

The European Commission is embarking on a two-year testing phase for Level(s) which companies, associations and public authorities are invited to participate in. This is something we, our Green Building Councils and our ERN Partners strongly recommend. As Vincent Briard, Sustainability & Product Regulatory Affairs Director at Knauf Insulation (an ERN Partner), concludes: “Levels(s) is the future of European sustainable buildings policy and by participating in the testing phase, industry players can demonstrate their leadership while capturing the potential of the buildings sector to contribute towards global goals.”

Further information on Level(s) can be found here.

To register your interest in testing Level(s), please click here.

audrey-nugent Audrey is Senior Policy Advisor, advising on sustainable buildings policy for the Europe Regional Network of over 30 national Green Building Councils. In particular, Audrey’s work focuses on WorldGBC’s flagship EU Horizon 2020 project BUILD UPON, the multi-stakeholder project engaging over 1,000 key stakeholders across 13 countries to develop strategies for scaling-up deep energy efficient building renovation.

Audrey has a Master in urban planning. She previously worked for a trade body advising chemical companies on policy and regulatory changes that impact their business and facilitating discussion between these companies and government. She has also worked for a London local authority ensuring its compliance with UK energy policy, in particular the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC).

Written by Anna Bajomi,Programma Housing of the Compagnia San Paolo

At the end of November the Energy Poverty Handbook was published in Brussels. The aim of the Handbook is to offer a complex overview and up-to date knowledge for those who are concerned about the levels of energy poverty in Europe and want to contribute with their own capacities to eliminate it. Policy makers, NGOs, business and social professionals, academics and students can all use the handbook throughout their work.

 

The eight articles of the Handbook, provided by organisations and academic researchers active in the fields of energy poverty, describe the various aspects of energy poverty. The book starts with a description of social and health impacts of energy poverty, which is followed by a detailed overview about definitions of energy poverty and the state of the European housing stock. Then an article offers us a good understanding of macro-regional differences regarding levels and causes of energy poverty.

The second part of the handbook focuses on practices: articles describe the actual regulations aiming to protect vulnerable consumers, the available funding sources and good practices tackling energy poverty. The article about good practices would like to offer inspiration for policy makers and practitioners to develop and deliver their own projects after reading through case studies. The listed case-studies cover projects such as large-scale physical interventions, energy advice and advocacy services and finally grass-roots but still complex initiatives. Among the case studies the Residential Energy Efficiency for Low Income Households (REELIH) project of Habitat for Humanity  and USAID is presented as a good example for international interventions in building energy efficiency in countries where policy support and advocacy is highly needed to move forward the issues of energy efficiency.

The Energy Poverty Handbook initiated and edited by the office of Tamás Meszerics, Member of the European Parliament (The Greens/EFA group).

The contents of the book are the following:

You can read the full publication here.

 anna-bajomi  

Anna Zsófia Bajomi holds a Masters in Social Policy from the Eötvös Lóránd University of Budapest in Hungary. She has worked at the Municipality of Budapest on the Social Urban Rehabilitation Thematic Development Programme for local stakeholders, and at the office of Tamás Meszerics at the European Parliament. Her field of research is housing and energy poverty especially energy poor tenants, grass root initiatives and good practices tackling housing and energy poverty. Currently she is working on Social Rental Agencies, and studies other innovative housing solutions at the Programma Housing of the Compagnia San Paolo in Turin, Italy, in the frame of the Erasmus For Young Entrepreneurs Program of the European Commission.

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