EU accused of "shocking" failure over green building laws

The European Union's adoption of new legislation and best practices designed to cut emissions from domestic and commercial buildings has proved "shockingly slow" and is largely failing to incentivise the building and property management industry to embrace green best practices.

That is the conclusion of a major report from the European Energy Network, which represents energy advisory bodies across the EU, including the UK's Energy Saving Trust.

The report assessed adoption of the European Commission's Energy Performance in Buildings Directive (EPBD) since it was passed in 2003 and found that the vast majority of member states had still failed to implement many of the energy efficiency initiatives required under the directive.

For example, the survey found only a fifth of member states had energy performance certificates (EPCs) in place for new builds, while even fewer countries had implemented legislation requiring certificates for existing buildings.

Equally only two thirds of member states had developed a methodology for assessing buildings' energy performance, despite such a methodology being required under the directive and being essential to any attempts to enhance the energy efficiency of the building stock.

Zoltan Zavaody, building strategy manager at the Energy Saving Trust, said that the adoption of the directive had been "shockingly slow" and urged the European Commission to take steps to ensure the legislation was being enacted and enforced.

He added that the widespread failure to embrace EPCs for commercial buildings, which award buildings a rating based on their energy performance, meant there was little incentive for property and facilities management firms across Europe to make investments to improve their building's energy efficiency .

"In the UK, for example, there is a target for new builds to be zero carbon by 2016 and that has meant developers are investing in the skills and technologies needed to meet that requirement," Zavaody explained.

"But without the EPCs there is no similar incentive to make the refurbishment sector similarly adapt."

John Alker, public affairs manager at the UK Green Building Council, agreed the failure to implement EPCs for commercial buildings was hampering the development of the market for green refurbishment projects.

"We fully support the report's findings and also support EPCs as the basis for making the existing building stock greener," he added.

However, despite the delays Zavaody insisted that with EPCs for UK homes now in place similar legislation for commercial buildings could be expected later this summer.

He added that such a move would provide an instant incentive for property owners to enhance the energy efficiency of their buildings. "If you are trying to rent an office and you know that if it has an A rating that guarantees the tenant lower running costs then you can charge higher rent," he explained.

"Investing to get an A rating suddenly becomes an attractive proposition."

Zavaody argued that those property management and refurbishment companies that pre-empt the legislation by investing in energy efficiency systems and services now could also enjoy a competitive advantage over rivals by "getting in ahead of the game".

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