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Read the Online Stories by our BuiltHub experts and Stakeholder Community.
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Ensuring impactful policymaking through socioeconomic building data

Posted on 27.03.2023
by Iná Maia

The cost of living in Europe has seen a notable increase in recent years - something that has been exacerbated by the war in Ukraine. With the increase in natural gas prices, a starker contrast between those who are experiencing energy poverty and those who are not has become visible. Energy poverty affects us all in a range of ways, but is perhaps most recognizable in the way it affects the building sector. The heating of our homes, typically by natural gas, is a monthly obligation that has put notable strain on household budgets.

There is no quick fix to this challenge, but an ongoing commitment to a deep renovation of the European building stock has been identified as an integral contributor to the decrease of energy poverty.  The renovation of the European building stock is leading to a multitude of benefits, including the impact that it has on the socioeconomics of the European population. Put plainly - less money spent on the heating of one's home allows for an increase in household budget, and thus a greater quality of life.

When leaders develop new policies and programmes that aim to target socioeconomic inequalities, they must have access to data that will support informed decision-making. The BuiltHub project recognises the importance of this, and as such, has committed to integrating a number of socioeconomic datasets such as the EU statistics on income and living conditions  (EU-SILC) into its Platform.

Datasets that focus on natural gas and household savings are particularly important for shaping policies and programmes. According to BuiltHub Platform data, approximately 56% of EU households in Spain consume natural gas - 16% of which must pay more than €600 annually due to high consumption. Also, notably, the data identifies rented, single family homes as the most vulnerable household type due to their low income and saving capabilities, in contrast to high renovation investment costs.

Data such as this provides an impactful overview of the reality that many households are facing. This data should - ideally - be the information needed to develop policies and programmes that favour environmental commitment and population need. It is worth noting however, that change is made not only by policymakers, but also by those in the position to invest in the green transition. Access to a full data picture can help to sway those game-changing investments. Those in the position to make or influence important decisions on behalf of society must have the full story, and building and renovation data is an unmissable chapter in that story.

About the blogger

Iná Maia
Technische Universität Wien

Iná Maia is a PhD Candidate at Energy Economics Group at the Technische Universität Wien. Professionally, her interests centre on buildings, the energy transition and energy policy-making. Personally, she is passionate about cultures and empowering women through education and sport.

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Putting renovation at the heart of the EU building stock transition

Posted on 14.03.2023
by Simon Pezzutto

There are 220 million building units across the European Union. Most of these buildings would benefit from renovation, thereby allowing for greater energy efficiency. Renovating these buildings one by one requires a significant amount of commitment across all EU member states, but is indeed possible - and necessary!

Only 11% of the existing EU building stock undergoes renovation annually, and only 0.2% undergoes deep renovation, which reduces energy consumption by at least 60%. The EU’s Renovation Wave Initiative, which is linked to the European Green Deal, aims to renovate 35 million inefficient buildings by 2030. This considerable goal cannot be achieved without all possible levers for progress ready at our fingertips. One such lever is the use of building and renovation data - the central topic of the BuiltHub project.

It is clear that there are a number of gaps that are likely contributing to the low renovation rate; including an overall lack of building and renovation data, as well as data that is simply incomparable. This includes floor area (gross, net, heated, occupied, etc.), energy (primary, final, delivered, consumption, etc.) and renovation-related data (energy-related, light, deep).

The European Commission’s Joint Research Centre has also indicated a number of barriers that are affecting the EU renovation rate, including:
•    a lack of knowing about efficient renovation measures
•    a lack of information on the wider benefits
•    not enough robust data

The BuiltHub project, specifically through its Platform and commitment to effective data governance and analytics, aims to help to fill that information gap.

The BuiltHub Platform already holds a number of valuable datasets that can help to shape renovation policies and plans by providing data related to carbon dioxide emissions, climate, solar radiation and technical systems for heating and cooling. For a larger picture, platform users can also access a complete analysis of the EU building stock via a dataset provided by the HotMaps project, which includes general information on energy consumption and building demand, as well as more focused data, such as on domestic hot water and thermal transmittancy.

Access to sufficient building and renovation data is just one important lever to ensure a rapid transformation of the EU building stock. Together, in concert with a number of projects and initiatives, we may yet make those necessary gains towards decarbonisation. 

About the blogger

Simon Pezzutto

Simon Pezzutto is a Senior Researcher and Team Leader at the Institute for Renewable Energy, at EURAC Research. Professionally, his interests focus on energy demand and the European building stock. Personally, he is passionate about traveling - specifically to great hiking destinations - and appreciates a good cup of espresso.

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Construction and demolition waste recycling for the (carbon) win

Posted on 03.03.2023
by Gianluca Grazieschi

The construction and renovation of buildings across Europe leads to the production of an enormous amount of building waste. Concrete, tiles, bricks and mortar are examples of construction and demolition waste (C&DW) that must be thoughtfully managed at both the beginning and end of the lifecycle of a building. The most sustainable and effective means of managing that waste is through recycling.

Within the BuiltHub project, we performed an exploratory case study to quantify the climate change and economic benefits that can be achieved by recycling such waste. This was achieved by combining Eurostat data about C&DW with unitary Global Warming Potential (IPCC GWP100y - kgCO2eq/ton) and cost savings (€/ton).

We began by estimating the amount of mineral C&DW generated across EU member states, as well as collecting data about C&DW recovery rates. Following this, we conducted a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and Life Cycle Costing (LCC) of one ton of said waste material. This allowed us to determine the environmental and economic benefits that can be achieved through backfill recycling – and, considering the huge amount of C&DW generated in Europe, they are considerable!

By recycling construction and demolition waste, we found that it is possible to save 2.10 kg of CO2eq/ton. The economic benefit is also well-founded, with a LCC saving equal to €1.50/ton (excluding the landfill taxation that is in force in some EU countries). Through effective C&DW recycling, in fact, we can avoid the production of virgin aggregates through quarrying and mining, as well as their subsequent environmental impacts and economic expenses.

Throughout the course of our research within the BuiltHub project however, it was clear that effective C&DW recycling can only come to fruition through policy instruments that set new standards and ambition levels. Taxation is an integral restriction for C&DW landfilling that can significantly boost recycling, but alone it is not enough. In order to enhance recycling, there must be greater promotion of and incentive for design strategies that favour waste separation and apply circular economy principles – like durability, waste minimization and use of recycled materials.

The environmental and economic benefits of C&DW recycling are clear - now we just need to make it happen.

About the blogger

Gianluca Grazieschi

Gianluca Grazieschi is a Post-Doc Researcher at the Institute of Renewable Energy, at EURAC Research. Professionally, his research focuses on circular economy, energy efficiency in buildings, energy retrofitting and environmental impact assessment, LCA. Personally, his interests include sustainable design and international cuisine.

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