As the global COVID-19 pandemic continues to unfold, plans for recovery and the future are now set in place. These plans need to turn the challenges of today into the opportunities of tomorrow. Recovery must be focused on building a more competitive, sustainable and resilient economy that is able to create jobs and enable the transition in the built environment that is human-centric, green and digital.
The NextGenerationEU package offers a once-in-a-generation chance to shape our European economies and societies for the better, to renovate the existing stock of buildings and to make them better places to live and work, whilst being more energy and resource efficient. AIOTI Buildings Group supports the focus on digital and green technologies in the overall EU Recovery Fund package, particularly the Recovery and Resilience Facility, which will bring jobs and economic growth. In order for the recovery funds to make a real, long term impact for the European built environment, there is a need to fulfil the ambition of a carbon-free continent by 2050, backed by the full power of digital technologies.
Decarbonising the EU’s building stock through human-centric renovations will support job creation and sustainable growth, driving the economic recovery from the ongoing economic and health crisis. The building sector is the largest energy consumer in Europe, absorbing 40% of the final energy and producing about 36% of all greenhouse emissions. Across Europe, 75% of buildings are considered energy inefficient, and, depending on the Member State, only 0.4-1.2% of the building stock is renovated each year. If Europe is to fulfil its 2050 climate and energy goals, this rate will need to be doubled to reach 3% per year.
AIOTI Buildings Group believes that the foundation for an effective and ambitious Renovation Wave must be based on the following three principles:
- Digitally integrated building renovations: Boosting digitally integrated renovations for energy efficient, renewable-based and flexible buildings, to attain climate neutrality in the most cost-effective and timely manner. This approach is based on the integration of technologies related to various segments that combined, evolve into smart buildings, enabling the advantages of collaboration and joint platforms benefiting from generated data. Only the integration offers the opportunity for future smart city planning, digital and sustainable building development, smart working & living and the evolution into a ‘technological building ecosystem’.
- Energy Efficiency and Renewables: in line with the Energy System Integration Strategy and the upcoming Climate Law, energy efficiency and renewable energy sources renewables must be central to all aspects of building renovations. This can be combined with policies that go beyond energy efficiency and promote Indoor Environment Quality (IEQ) to ensure comfort, wellbeing, and productivity benefits to their users. An example of a tool that could achieve both energy savings and higher comfort and wellbeing is the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive’s (EPBD) Smart Readiness Indicator, which is currently being applied throughout the EU on a voluntary basis.
- Dedicated financial flows: it is crucial that each Member State dedicate financing within their National Plans for the EU Recovery and Resilience Facility, and other available funding sources, to increase the rate and quality of renovations of buildings and to support integrated building renovations that will deliver decarbonisation before 2050.
- Infrastructure – digital infrastructures are key to the development of the smart buildings of the future. 5G will improve the connection speed and allow the development of applications that require low latency, high reliability or the connection of millions of low-energy sensors. Fibre networks must be extended as quickly as possible in all areas currently served by mixed copper infrastructure. Part of the resources of the Recovery Fund should be invested in the research and development of future-proof networks and infrastructures in the context of smart buildings.
- Digitally-enabled solutions – in the context of the Renovation Wave, funding conditionality for financing should not neglect to improve a building’s smartness from both an energy efficiency and indoor environmental quality perspective. Technologies including IoT, smart connectivity, AI, edge computing can be enablers to achieve the objectives of the Renovation Wave. The potential of connectivity and digital tools to enable energy savings will prevent long-term lock-in-effects and prepare for flexible use scenarios of buildings in the future. Investment into collaboration hubs around buildings will enable technology providers, manufacturers and service providers to develop joint solutions and platforms that all ecosystem stakeholders will be able to benefit from associated data generation.
- Building Information Modelling (BIM) – promote BIM in public tenders by basing public procurement on the MEAT Digital solutions based on ecosystems of Digital Twins will prove key to reaching the green goals efficiently. Public sector should lead by example. All public EU tenders (e.g., from cities), for both new buildings and renovations, should be made digital and have BIM included with a coordinated overall design.
- Digital know-how and skills – in parallel with the construction of the networks and services implementation, there is a need to train building professionals (such as designers and installers) for the secure digital environment in order for it to be an engine of inclusive growth. Digital skills development needs investment to retrain building professionals for the design, deployment and maintenance of the technologies needed to achieve more energy-efficient and smart buildings.
- Human-centric – all renovations should be targeted to support health and wellbeing for the occupants. Indoor environmental quality if mandatory to provide people a decent place to work and stay.
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