Words into action: all hands on deck to make Renovation Wave a reality

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

"Without significant political will on the highest level of government, the wave will remain a trickle," writes Oliver Rapf [Leon G / Flickr]

Member states need to roll up their sleeves and start working on implementing national and local renovation waves across Europe, writes Oliver Rapf.

Oliver Rapf is the executive director at Buildings Performance Institute Europe.

The European Commission’s Renovation Wave, unveiled earlier this month, is a breath of fresh air in a carbon-heavy sector.

It provides a comprehensive and inclusive set of actions aiming at accelerating renovation of our buildings and homes in the EU, tackling the associated challenges head on. The strategy is the result of a broad consultation process which received contributions from several hundred organisations and official bodies with an interest in the buildings sector.

Its ambition is to ensure that the sector contributes its fair share to Europe’s 2030 and 2050 climate targets and to a green economic recovery.

However, this will only happen if words are turned into action.

The ball is now in the court of the member states: it is time governments roll up their sleeves and work with their respective building community (including, for example, the financial and construction sector) to launch multiple national and local renovation waves.

There is no more time for procrastination: we have many positive experiences to follow, often brought about by innovative leaders in cities and regions.

The ideas have been tested and proved effective, and now they will have to be scaled up. Buildings Performance Institute Europe’s recent analysis of national renovation strategies showed that there is significant room for improvement, a need for innovation, and crucially, immediate action.

So how do we make sure the Renovation Wave happens? I suggest taking these four steps:

Support citizens in their renovation decision: because they are looking for tailored recommendations on how to improve their homes and want to know how their own energy consumption compares to others’.

It makes sense to ask building and home-owners which kind of information would help them take a positive renovation investment decision.

A recent survey run by the X-tendo project found that energy performance certificates should include information that goes beyond energy consumption, like comfort and indoor air quality.

These findings should give sufficient inspiration to the Commission and governments to improve their energy certificate schemes, so that these important transparency and information tools can have a positive impact on the energy efficiency market, further stimulating renovation demand.

Follow the innovators: and their initiatives, like Operene in the Auvergne-Rhones-Alpes region in France. This initiative delivers deep renovation to multi-family homes through an end-to-end service, including financial engineering and an extensive project management and quality assurance process.

The offer reduces many barriers for both the owner and the investor and could serve as an example for new business models offered by the construction industry. Many more examples exist.

Now more than ever, both policymakers and industry should be paying close attention to what works and how they can apply these solutions in their home countries.

Embolden European entrepreneurs: to deliver comprehensive renovation solutions. Accelerating innovation by providing a cost-competitive, integrated service offering is crucial to stimulate demand and ensure that Europe’s small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) “economic backbone” continues to grow and thrive.

The largely SME-driven construction sector will have to innovate its business models and will require support to do so from government and financial services, before a new “Tesla in the construction industry” comes along and disrupts the business model of the incumbents.

Pushing innovation is not easy, but there is no alternative if European industry doesn’t want to see its innovation potential go to waste because a disrupter from overseas enters the market and offers better, scalable renovation services.

Show political will and act: because without significant political will on the highest level of government, the wave will remain a trickle. At the moment, it seems as if the lack of political attention in national governments is the biggest barrier.

Buildings Performance Institute Europe’s recent analysis of national long-term renovation strategies found that just one was fully compliant with European requirements, as laid out in the energy performance of buildings directive.

Many had significant gaps and half of the strategies were still missing six months after the deadline. This is not only disappointing, but it shows a lack of attention for a topic which has a direct impact on every citizen’s life and well-being.

Governments should take the Renovation Wave as an opportunity to consolidate and implement their strategies and activate them through the additional sources of financing available, such as the Recovery and Resilience Facility.

And those who haven’t submitted their strategy should do so quickly while going for maximum ambition. The European Commission will have to follow up on its commitment to check implementation thoroughly, as a starting point for presenting ambitious revised legislation next year.

We need all hands on deck to make the Renovation Wave a reality

The European Renovation Wave is a unique opportunity; never before has so much potential funding been allocated to building renovation.

It has been said many times before that renovation is good for the economy, for people, and for the planet – there is no need to debate this further.

We must understand that the Renovation Wave is more than a set of good intentions or a document waiting to collect dust the moment something more “important” comes along.

It is a commitment taken by the European Commission to create the right enabling framework with the revision of efficiency legislation in 2021.

It is a strong call for our national leaders and innovators to work together and put words to action, to make building renovation a priority. Europe’s Renovation Wave must happen now, and we need all hands on deck to make it happen.

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