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28 October 2020
Asthma , COPD, Allergy
PREVENT, - Air Quality

This month the European Commission published its Renovation Wave Strategy. This strategy outlines detailed plans to increase the energy efficiency of building across the EU. When implemented, it promises to create greener homes that emit less greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, as well as to tackle energy poverty and create green jobs.

According to the EU, over 85% of buildings in Europe were built over 20 years ago, and the majority are expected to last until 2050. Green renovations of old buildings are needed to make sure we live in decent environments for people and the planet, as well as to create a more sustainable Europe.

EFA applauds the EU initiative of a Renovation Wave Strategy to make European buildings more sustainable, but we regret that it misses the opportunity to address how buildings impact our health. EFA highlighted the importance of including health concerns in the EC consultation on the renovation wave.

Why health must be priorititised in making buildings sustainable

Poor air quality in Europe has been considered responsible for 2 million healthy lives lost every year. The situation is particularly problematic for people with allergy, asthma and COPD, who are the first to be impacted by bad indoor air quality.

The renovation of buildings in Europe must also be done to respond to health concerns. In the times of a respiratory infection pandemic, buildings and indoor spaces should be renovated taking into account issues such as indoor air pollution and ventilation. Tackling indoor air pollution is essential for not only for patients with respiratory diseases or allergies, but for the entire population.

This is why EFA calls on the EU not only to detail actions to improve indoor air quality through building renovation, but to also inform about it through an Indoor Air Quality Performance certifi­cate. From our perspective the EU should adopt harmonised measurement and compulsory certification of indoor air quality performance for all new and renovated buildings to assess the quality of the air indoors based on the structure of the building, the ventilation, the average presence of pollutants and the environmental conditions affecting them.

Such a certificate could help set and monitor safe levels for volatile compounds indoors and air properties like temperature, dryness, humidity. This could be a win-win for public health and performance of buildings, towards a new healthy economy.

What the EU is currently working on

The European Parliament adopted in September an own-initiative report on ‘Maximising the energy efficiency potential of the EU building stock’. The EP Industry, Research and Energy committee (ITRE) will be responsible for handling the dossier. In the meantime, the Commission has a number of next steps already in the pipeline: a guidance on the ‘Energy Efficiency First’ principle in early 2021; the revision of the Energy Efficiency and the Renewable Energy Directives; and, importantly, the revision of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive by the end of 2021.

You can read the full Renovation Wave Strategy from the European Commission here.