Wednesday 22 May 2024

This time we focus on Europe and even managed to address that in Malmö earlier this month. Not fun for everyone but a fact that cannot be ignored. In previous blogs, we already outlined the new CPR (Construction Products Regulation) and EPBD (Energy Performance Building Directive). Existing regulations that are being developed to better serve their original purposes. Through these developments, the connection and understanding of their undeniable mutual influence is also growing. 

On the one hand, we see a regulation at construction product level, and on the other a directive at building level. It is therefore logical that these should align. The same applies to the environmental impact. Under the CPR, now elaborated in 19 impact categories based on EN 15804:2012+A2:2019, this is quite a drastic change. For the new EPBD, the move to further reduce energy consumption in the use phase of the buildings seems much less of a game changer. 

Two movements 

So far, most people can follow it reasonably well. Two movements aimed at reducing environmental impact by the construction industry. Because it is big. Around 40% of all carbon emissions in Europe can be attributed to the production of building materials and products, activities during the construction phase on the building site, the use of the buildings and what you do with the buildings when they reach their end-of-life. 

But again, the devil is in the detail. Technically and scientifically, there are extensive insights into what influence factors can be included in calculations. Several countries like the Netherlands have been working on this for years and have incorporated these insights in their national regulations or are about to do so. A key concern relates to communication: how many and which units are used, how are they determined and communicated? Doesn't this all get too complicated? After all, many parties with different levels of knowledge and interests need to work with it. And how effectively is all this designed to achieve the overarching objectives, without losing sight of national ambitions? 

European harmonisation 

But there are also other kinds of influences. Who remembers years ago worrying about acid rain or the hole in the ozone layer? The key word for the latter was 'ozone layer'. Later, the key word was 'greenhouse gases' (GHG-Green House Gases). If we talk in terms of Paris-Proof, we are more likely to talk about carbon reduction, often again linked to a Whole Life Carbon (WLC) approach. We always seem to have a different focus. However, anyone who knows more about the issues will recognise that all these aspects have a place in current developments. 

One of the advantages of European harmonisation is that the same technical bases are used within member states. These are European standards, following - and further elaborating on - global ISO standards. The downside is that all national regulations and private programmes must constantly account for European developments. Given the diversity of backgrounds, interpretations, software used, etc., this is an interesting and challenging task! 

So far, it only concerned environmental performance. For buildings, other characteristics and performance of materials and products may also be important, for example mechanical strength or fire safety. A better performance on one characteristic may well mean that a worse score is obtained on another characteristic.  

Finally, we should not forget that social and economic factors also come into play, which may well be in conflict with each other. This regularly leads to complex policy considerations. Good coordination with government policies is crucial in this respect. And that requires expert and motivated staff. Interested? View our vacancies. We are looking for colleagues. 

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