European national strategies to move towards very low energy buildings

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The low energy building definition was introduced at various times across Europe. Some countries have even had different definitions of low energy buildings at different periods of time.

The 22 answers received included 7 countries with an existing official definition and 7 countries with a planned official definition. Four countries have "only" an existing non-governmental definition. Four countries have both existing official and non-governmental definitions of low energy buildings.

The following countries have an official definition concerning very low energy buildings: Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany and United Kingdom (England and Wales).

Even though the calculation methods are in accordance with the definitions in the EPBD and thus the relevant CEN standards, there are national deviations that make a cross-country comparison of the calculated energy performance difficult.

One way of promoting very low energy buildings is by various direct or indirect actions that make these kinds of buildings more attractive. The most popular support for low energy buildings is e.g. loans with low interest rates to finance low energy buildings. This is done either by means of official subsidies or via private investment organisations. Another possibility is lower taxes for low energy buildings or the introduction of CO2 taxes. Furthermore mandatory certification schemes are expected to promote very low energy buildings by introduction of grades restricted to buildings with very high energy performance.

It is important to stress the need for MS to introduce a national or regional definition of very low energy buildings in their building regulation and to develop a national strategy towards this level of energy performance to become the standard. This market transformation is a big challenge for the partners in the building sector and has just started the "learning curve" from being a concept of very low energy houses as a "grass-root" concept to becoming an official requirement in a very short time.

It is important that the European Commission initiate actions to follow the ambition in the EU Action plan - to develop an EU strategy towards very low energy houses. The current recast of the EPBD is an opportunity, which must not be missed to introduce the requirement to MS to define very low energy buildings and a national strategy towards this level of energy performance.

A strategy for improved energy efficiency of existing buildings is a necessity if the energy consumption is to be reduced significantly over a limited period of time. The life time of buildings ranges from 50 to 100 years and improvement of the existing building stock will thus have much higher impact than the tightening of requirements for new buildings. Belgium (Flanders) plans tighten the requirements for existing buildings.

Most countries have planned revision of their legislation within the next 5 years, and a few countries have also targets for new energy requirement in 2015 and 2020. A long-term objective is an effective instrument to achieve highly energy efficient buildings, as well as a valuable tool and guideline for the construction sector.

Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationHørsholm
PublisherSBI forlag
Number of pages33
ISBN (Electronic)978-87-563-1329-2
Publication statusPublished - 2008


  • low energy buildings
  • legislation


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