Sustainable Buildings – From niche to standard

Source: Nicole Kirbach¸ PKF Malta

The effects of climate change have become increasingly evident in recent decades. The trend is clear despite the still existing uncertainties about the pace¸ scope and practical consequences: the world’s average temperature will rise¸ rainfall patterns will change and extreme weather events will increase. The vast majority of climate scientists believe that human beings¸ at least in part¸ are responsible for the climate change. The scientists call for swift and decisive action to combat global warming and its consequences. One of the biggest challenges is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Their increasing concentration is regarded as the main cause
for the temperature rise. In most industrialized countries it has increased in the past 60 years by more than 20%.In parallel¸ the global temperatures have climbed significantly. The continuous increase of CO2 concentration in the atmosphere is traced back to the higher global consumption of wood¸ coal¸ oil and natural gas. The increased use of these resources will ultimately lead to their scarcity and thus higher prices. The expansion of renewable energy and improving energy efficiency are therefore desirable for ecological as well as economic reasons. However¸ not only the climate experts know about the risks of global warming¸ increasing emissions and rising energy prices. Even the awareness of the population and the business has been sharpened. They have recognized that the efficient use of energy has immense potential savings.

Governments and EU conscious of the importance of sustainability

The existing market mechanisms alone are not enough to provide a sufficient level of energy efficiency and resource conservation in the coming years. For this reason¸ many countries and leaders pursue global climate protection strategies to increase energy efficiency and also to make energy production less damaging to the climate through renewable sources. The European Union is also conscious of the importance of sustainability. As well as signing the Kyoto Protocol obliging all those who signed it inter alia to commit to ensuring the rise in global temperatures stays below 2%¸ the EU issued directives to pursue the goal of reducing energy consumption in buildings and promoting the use of renewable energy sources. These directives have been transposed into national law by most of the EU Member States (such as Germany¸ Belgium¸ Spain and Romania). Here for example¸ German governments use subsidies and tax breaks and increase the standards for buildings and technical equipment. Therefore the issue of climate change is overall increasingly becoming the focus of the policy.

The building sector is responsible for 42% of EU final energy consumption and for 35% of total greenhouse gas emissions. The larger savings potential lies in housing and not in economics. The contingent of energy consumption in housing is 26%. Particularly relevant in this case is the reduction of energy consumption for heating¸ air