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12 April 2022
PREVENT, - Air Quality

In December 2021, the European Commission’s Directorate General for Energy published its proposal for an updated Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD). Buildings are crucial for health, particularly for people’s allergy and respiratory disease, as we spend more than 90% of our lives indoors.

While the main goals of the energy performance legislation is to address the buildings’ footprint in the external environment, the way that their conception and renovation will be thought should also take into account the indoor environment of buildings and how it impacts health and quality of life of inhabitants.

For patients living with allergy, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) clean buildings mean, first and foremost, healthy indoor air. From EFA’s perspective, these considerations are not addressed in the European Commission proposal for a Directive and has published a statement highlighting the missed opportunity to tackle indoor air quality in the EPBD.

Indoor air pollution: the dirty elephant in the room

Pollutants of indoor air such as mould, dampness, heating/cooking emissions and tobacco smoke can be found everywhere. At this precise moment where the COVID-19 pandemic has brought the issues of ventilation and air quality to the spotlight, EFA calls on the EU institutions to include indoor air quality criteria in the legislation around buildings.

Indoor air quality is an arguably fragmented policy area, with no unified framework of action at the EU level. While waiting for concise proposals from the Commission, which are expected in 2023 as part of the Zero Pollution Action Plan, the challenge of indoor air pollution is already here and is harming human health in multiple ways: poor indoor air quality accounts for 10% of non-communicable diseases mortality globally; while 2 million disability adjusted life years (DALYs) are lost in the EU every year.

Patients vs indoor air pollution: Need for access to knowledge, prevention mechanisms and protection of health

EFA has responded to the European Commission consultation on the proposed Directive encouraging to take health-oriented approach in its revision of the EPBD that also enables a cleaner building stock in the EU and meets the ambition of the EU Green Deal. We particularly call for attention to:

  • Strengthen the performance of buildings contribution to health and wellbeing by explicitly addressing indoor air quality. By integrating health-related considerations into buildings, renovations can also drive the transition towards healthier living indoor environments, reducing disease risk factors and allowing vulnerable groups chronic patients live better lives.
  • Define health quality standards for buildings, such as healthiness of built environments and indoor air quality. To this end, we call on the Commission to establish a harmonised indoor air quality monitoring and certification system through the adoption of a mandatory indoor air quality certificate for all new and renovated buildings.
  • Match energy criteria with built-in ventilation solutions. While the use of appliances and tools such as air purifiers and CO2 sensors, promoted by several countries during the COVID-19 pandemic, is useful, healthy indoor air should be based on EU level legislative provisions linking ventilation, health and energy performance of new and renovated buildings.
  • Include funding tools and mechanisms for building renovations that are linked to health criteria and outcomes. Available EU programme funding must lead by example linking the financing of renovations with health-related criteria. There are several good practices of national examples to draw from including the Irish ‘Warmth and Wellbeing Pilot Scheme’, which facilitates energy upgrades in residential buildings on the basis of health referrals; or the Swedish scheme to support house adjustments through a municipal grant, specifically addressed to those with a disability – including those with severe allergy.

EFA is ready to engage closely with the European Parliament and the Council to ensure that health considerations are reflected in the final text of the revised EPBD.

You can find the full EFA response to the consultation here.