European Commission & WorldGBC’s Europe Regional Network discuss future of sustainable building in Europe

Tuesday 11th April 2017


Green Building Councils (GBCs) and Partners from WorldGBC’s Europe Regional Network (ERN) met with the European Commission late last month to discuss the progress of a key piece of EU policy for sustainable buildings, and how GBCs can support it.  

The ‘EU Sustainable Buildings Framework’ is a project that the Commission has been working on since 2014 to develop EU-wide indicators to assess the environmental performance of buildings. The framework does not intend  to create an EU building certification scheme, but rather provide a voluntary reporting framework that has a broad potential for use by building sector professionals across the EU – and that may come to underpin future EU policy in this area. The framework will officially launch this summer.

The Commission’s assessment indicators are set out against six main headings:

(i)  Greenhouse Gas Emissions

(ii) Resource Efficiency

(iii) Water Efficiency

(iv) Health and Wellbeing

(v) Resilience to Climate Change

(vi) Life Cycle Costing

In July 2016, during a large public consultation on this framework, the ERN stated the view that building level Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) provides the only accurate view on whether the solutions provided for a building are the most sustainable over its whole lifecycle – and it  strongly encouraged an EU framework based on this approach. Based on the feedback of the ERN and others, the Commission’s framework will adopt this approach. This framework will form a key construction sector action within the Commission’s drive towards a ‘Circular Economy’.

Ahead of the launch of the framework, the ERN has been working closely with the Commission to develop and refine these indicators so that they are robust and help to embed sustainability across the whole value chain. 

At the meeting, representatives from GBCs in Spain, Germany, Italy, Finland and France outlined the situation in their national markets and potential activities their GBCs could undertake to support its implementation. These include the integration of the framework within Green Public Procurement criteria; the provision of training courses on elements of the framework; and addressing the indicators within certification schemes.  Several of our Regional Partner companies (BASF, Knauf Insulation, Saint-Gobain, Skanska and ASSA ABLOY) provided market insights on how the Commission’s framework could be implemented by the sector.

Actions taken over the coming months and years will be crucial in ensuring that the EU framework creates the foundations needed to mainstream sustainable building practices across Europe. The ERN and Commission have agreed a number of immediate actions to communicate the benefits of the Framework to the market and identify solutions to potential barriers. A two year testing phase will begin in autumn this year – GBCs and Regional Partners have expressed an interest in participating in this phase.

In parallel, the ERN will be looking at ways to support wider long-term implementation of the framework across the region. As a first step, a workshop with national government and local experts will take place in Finland in May, which will be followed by a series of workshops in other countries later in the year. The results of these workshops will feed into the ERN’s long term implementation strategy.

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