September 02, 2021 • 8 minutes

How the EU Climate Law impacts the building industry

The Climate Law approved in June 2021 makes the EU’s greenhouse gas emission targets legally binding. This signals the start of a major policy overhaul for many sectors including construction. But what does the law entail – and how might it impact business in construction? Get the run-down in this 8-minute read.


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What is the EU Climate Law? 


In 2019 the European Commission launched the EU Green Deal, an ambitious policy that sets Europe on a path to being carbon neutral by 2050. This target will result in a cleaner environment, more affordable energy, smarter transport and a better quality of life for those living and working in EU countries. 

The Climate Law sets this policy into law and increases the 2030 greenhouse gas emission reduction target from 40% to 55%. Reaching carbon neutrality requires big changes to policy and governance. EU member countries are legally obliged to make changes at their national level to reach Europe's goal of being carbon neutral by 2050.



Why construction should place the EU Climate Law on high alert


The question is: what does the Climate Law mean for the construction industry, and more specifically manufacturers? Well, there are a lot of points covered in the policy, but we’ve sifted through it and have put together a summary of what you need to know:

  • Emission reduction targets
    The new Effort Sharing Regulation sets emission reduction targets for all EU countries by 2030 for industries including buildings.

    How big of a part will our industry play in making the regulation come to fruition? Well, considering that buildings and construction account for 36% of final energy use and 39% of energy and process-related carbon dioxide; quite a big one. More on this later!

  • Emissions trading in favour of clean alternatives
    Emissions Trading for building fuels will put a price on polluting fuels to encourage producers to innovate and invest in clean alternatives. Revenue generated from this will go towards funding a Social Climate Fund to provide financial support to citizens to invest in renovation or cleaner heating systems. The Emissions Trading will also create revenues for EU countries to support the decarbonisation of buildings.

  • Renewable Energy
    The revised Renewable Energy Directive will set a benchmark of 49% of renewables in buildings and raise the use of renewable energy in district heating and cooling by 2.1 percentage points each year.

  • Renovating and restoring existing structures
    The strengthened Energy Efficiency Directive introduces a legal requirement to put energy efficiency first in planning and investment decisions. What does this mean in practice?

    The public sector will be required to renovate 3% of its buildings each year to reduce energy use and the cost to taxpayers. A new target will be set for all EU countries to reduce energy use in the public sector by 1.7% each year. The Directive will also encourage public bodies to use Energy Performance Contracts for the renovation of large non-residential buildings.

 

 

 

The Climate Law's impact in EU – and beyond


Governments worldwide are watching to see what impact the adjustment to existing policies and the introduction of new policies will make to Europe's CO2 emissions. In a collective effort to reduce CO2 emissions, other countries or even continents may decide to follow the move made by the European Union's member states. 

In fact, the UK is also pledging to reduce emissions to net-zero by 2050. Also enshrined into UK law is the target of reducing emissions in 2030 by at least 68% compared to 1990 levels and to achieve a 78% reduction by 2035.

The Climate Law has a huge impact on manufacturers supplying the construction sector, as the EU plans on charging importers at borders for the carbon emitted in making products like cement, steel and aluminium abroad.

 

Buildings and construction are major climate culprits


Why is part of the Climate Law targeting the construction industry? Let’s be honest, we're not leading the way in sustainability. Some are, such as MOSO bamboo, but we're miles away from where we should be.

While other industries (like aviation) have been called out for their contribution to CO2 emissions, the construction industry has so far managed to slip under the radar. 

This is surprising given that the building and construction sectors are responsible for 39% of energy use and process-related CO2 emissions and 36% of final energy use. Plus, the manufacture of building materials and products like steel, cement and glass account for 11% of CO2 emissions. Get the full climate breakdown now.

 

Building one new Tokyo every quarter


As mentioned in our report: Why sustainability is key to getting specified, the stark reality is that the demand for housing is only going to increase. The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs reports that by 2050, the urban population will rise to 6.7 billion. That equates to a staggering 68% of the world’s total population living in an urban environment.

The United Nations projects 230 billion square metres (2.5 trillion ft2) in new construction by 2060 to meet the needs of the rising population. That’s equivalent to one Paris every week, one New York City every 34 days or roughly one Tokyo each quarter.

Tokyo aerial


The reality is that we’re faced with a situation where we can’t stop building, but our planet can’t support it.

It might sound bleak. Disheartening, even. But as we all know by watching countless superhero movies: sometimes it's the villain's change of heart that ends up saving the world.

So, how can we build green and healthy buildings without putting construction (and business) to a grinding halt? The only solution is to build differently. To reap the benefits and squeeze the most out of new technological advancements that allow us to build better, smarter and faster. 

But all of that sounds like marketing fluff, or wishful thinking, at best – right? It's not.

 

Why BIM is key to meeting the EU Climate Law


Mitigating a carbon footprint means making better decisions in the design, construction and management of buildings to reduce CO2 emissions. And, this is one of the primary reasons why BIM exists and is becoming mandatory for public procurements around the world.

We've created an entire page covering the BIM basics, but it bears (swift) repeating: BIM, short for Building Information Modelling, is a 3D digital building process where information about every single building component is managed across the project team and throughout its lifecycle. This gives stakeholders involved in a project the ability to: 

• run simulations of the building’s life cycle energy
• assess product and material life cycles
calculate statements about energy and embodied carbon dioxide
forecast volumes to minimise waste
examine the future performance of the assets
detect and resolve construction faults (such as clashes) before the shovel even nicks the ground.

Effort Sharing Regulation – check!

BIM is often used in the context of new builds. But it's a valuable tool for renovating existing structures – even historic buildings (HBIM). Reverting back to the EU Climate Law's "Energy Efficiency Directive", BIM can prove quite an edge for the 3% annual renovation rate – both in speed and analysing materials to a net-zero carbon standard.

 

BIM for manufacturers: facilitating greener design


BIM is often seen as a process used by architects, engineers, contractors and owners/operators. But that's not the full story. Manufacturers play an important – nay! critical! – role in BIM.



We've covered the gist of it "4 reasons why every manufacturer should get into BIM", but BIM is built on collaboration between all stakeholders in a project – manufacturer (highly!) included.

  • 74% of architects, engineers and contractors feel that highly collaborative relationships with building product manufacturers will be very or extremely important to project success over the next three years, states Harvard Business Review.
  • Giuseppe Tortato of the Giuseppe Tortato Architetti studio says that BIM unlocks new synergies and partnerships with manufacturers. Read the full interview in 7 cases for the business value of BIM.

But... Collaboration isn't the only BIM perk. As a manufacturer, you surely want to stay up-to-date with current trends and designer demands. So, what's the specifier 411 on sustainability? We asked 2,568 of them to score the importance of sustainable design on a scale of 0-10. The result? An impressive 7,6. 

Graph displaying how important sustainability is for specifiers

Want more? Get your copy of Why sustainability is key to getting specified.


Unfortunately, aspiration can only get you so far. Architects and engineers can't cut emissions nor design to a net-zero carbon standard without the right information. And contractors certainly can't submit climate declarations based on a gut feeling.

So, what do they need to fully comply with the new EU Climate Law? You guessed it: information about each building products' environmental impact.

 

BIM: A competitive edge for manufacturers


BIM enables greater and greener collaboration with specifiers. But how can manufacturers get a foot in? And how can you meet the new net-zero demand? Well, it all comes down to creating manufacturer-specific BIM objects. These information-rich digital twins of your products are the components designers use to populate and create their BIM models.

But what's the business gain? Well, it isn't just an added bonus or goodwill. As shown in Kanlux's interview 7 cases for the business value of BIM, it can make or break a deal and open doors to public projects.

Why? Manufacturers who create BIM objects provide specifiers with the information they need to make environmentally conscious decisions that align with the client and the new EU Climate Law (which will go hand-in-hand for most public procurements, by the way). If you can't meet their information needs: you'll be weeded out before you're given a running chance.

 

To sum it all up...


The EU climate law might feel like a hard blow at first sight. But the sirens have been alarming for quite a while. The EU climate law is just a catalyst that cements what we already knew: that's it's time that we not only wake up, but listen, make amends and take action. As an industry, we need to join forces and embrace new innovations. Innovations that allow us to do more, do better and build a brighter, greener future for all.

 

Want to take the next step? Get closer to the EU Climate Law and designer demands by joining the BIMobject marketplace today!

 

This blog post is for inspirational and informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice nor shall it be construed, or relied, on as such.