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10 YFP
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Indoor air quality, thermal comfort and daylight - An analysis of residential building regulations in 8 Member States

This report about indoor air quality (IAQ), thermal comfort and daylight requirements in selected Member States addresses a range of topics increasingly important for European buildings and their inhabitants.

The overall aim of the report is to provide an overview of the regulatory framework for IAQ, thermal comfort and daylight, and to highlight the importance of having appropriate requirements for thermal comfort, ventilation and daylight conditions. The report provides concluding recommendations for further policy development relevant for indoor climate.

The assessment focuses on the respective building codes for new and existing residential buildings in selected MS: Belgium (Brussels Region), Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Sweden and the UK (England and Wales).

A critical and comparative evaluation is provided whilst best practice approaches are highlighted.

Between 30 to 50% of excess winter deaths can be attributed to cold indoor temperatures, demonstrating the importance of thermal comfort and its link to fuel poverty. Key aspects to ensure good conditions for building occupants include thermal comfort, indoor air quality and daylight. Despite these links, the requirements for indoor air quality and thermal comfort are not comprehensive and clear enough in the eight surveyed countries. BPIE identified gaps in regulation to ensure that European citizens live in highly efficient, healthy, comfortable and well lit buildings. Considering that people spend 60 to 90% of their life in buildings, the subject should get a prominent space in legislation.

At the EU level, while indoor climate is mentioned in the EPBD, the importance of indoor air quality, thermal comfort and daylight has to be strengthened in a future recast. These aspects could be integrated in the Energy Performance Certification process as relevant information of the actual living conditions in the building. The co-benefits of thermal comfort and a healthy indoor environment should be taken into account when assessing the macroeconomic impact of energy renovation measures (e.g. reduction of health service costs). Such requirements should also be reflected in national renovation strategies as developed under articles 4 and 5 of the Energy Efficiency Directive.

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Renovation strategies of selected EU countries

The Energy Efficiency Directive (2012/27/EU) introduced in 2012 an important new dimension to the energy saving in buildings legislative landscape. Article 4 requires Member States, for the first time, to set out national strategies for the renovation of their building stocks, thereby filling a major gap in policy concerning the existing building stock.

The report focuses on 10 Member States (Austria, Belgium (Brussels Capital Region), Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Netherlands, Romania, Spain and UK) that submitted within 3 months of the April 2014 deadline and selected by BPIE for their building stock and climate diversity. The 10 strategies, while giving a spectrum of approaches and activities, do not set a clear, strategic path and most lack bold and determined action plans.

The report scores countries for each of the 5 requirements from Article 4, EED: overview of the national building stock, cost-effective approaches to renovations, policies and measures to stimulate cost-effective deep renovations, forward-looking perspective to guide investment decisions and evidence-based estimate of expected savings and wider benefits. Based on this scoring, BPIE finds that 3 strategies are non-compliant (Austria, Denmark and The Netherlands), 3 are only partially compliant (France, Germany and Brussels Capital Region) and 4 are acceptable but still show potential to improve (Czech Republic, Romania, Spain and the UK). Some strategies include elements which can be considered best practice such as financial support or a wider-stakeholder process, but are weak on other aspects, varying from country to country.

The report concludes that benefits need to be quantified better, not only in terms of energy, carbon and cost savings, but also in terms of economic impact, societal benefits and environmental improvements. Policy packages and support measures need to be developed in more detail to provide effective incentives to invest in deep renovation. It is also suggested that the European Commission should provide more effective guidance and that most strategies should be re-submitted with corrective actions taken.

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