Healthy Buildings for Unhealthy Times: Why Renovate Europe should lead the post-COVID-19 era
It has been shown that the condition of buildings can impact the health of the people who inhabit them. Good insulation or adequate ventilation not only reduces the risks of contracting diseases but is also beneficial for people’s mental health. What should Europe do about it?
One thing the last few months of lockdown have emphasized is the importance of a comfortable home; one in which we do not freeze in winter, nor suffocate in the summer heat. It may seem exaggerated, but the evidence is there: around 50 million EU citizens currently live in houses with leaks or without sufficient insulation. Houses can have a significant impact on health, as we spend up to 90% of our time inside our homes.
Imagine the health impacts of the quarantine imposed by the Covid-19. According to the World Health Organization, health is not just about whether you are sick or not, "Health is the state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing, and not just the absence of disease or disability."
For WHO, one of the factors that most influences good health is housing. Poor living conditions increase the risk of disease. But what are the conditions for a good living environment? The lighting, the air conditioning, its accessibility, its acoustic and thermal insulation, its quality of construction, and its safety are the most influential factors. Currently, in Europe, the construction of energy-efficient buildings is prioritized, but criteria that take into account the health of occupants are also valued.
A wave of renovation for the least efficient buildings
The green economy is, for now, the most reasonable and certain tactic in the EU for economic recovery; changing the production model towards energy efficiency and sustainability. In this context, the European Green Deal and the accompanying wave of renovation can be understood.
One of the cornerstones of this new model is going to be the renovation of existing buildings. Keep in mind that 210 million buildings in the EU currently collectively use more energy and emit more CO2 than any other sector of the EU economy. Of these buildings, more than 94% will still be standing in 2050, due to the current low demolition rate. Also, last but not least, the annual renovation rate of residential buildings is 0.2%, meaning it could take more than a century to achieve a stock of efficient and decarbonized buildings in the EU. A serious problem if you want to comply with the 2050 directives.
According to Climact, in a study carried out in 2018, a minimum renewal rate of 3% per year must be achieved, combined with an improvement in energy efficiency of 75% by 2030.
Renovate Europe is being developed in parallel to the wave of renovation, initiated by EuroACE (European Alliance of Companies for Energy Efficiency in Buildings). The goal is to reduce the energy demands of EU building stock by 80% by 2050, in order to reach the near-zero energy standard (nZEB) by the middle of the century.
The challenge is huge and needs a significant boost because at the moment the rate of change is too slow. However, a renovated building can acquire the same levels of efficiency as a new one. This not only results in an energy benefit but also an economic one: a certified building with high energy efficiency consumes less and requires less investment. In the long run, life in these buildings turns out to be much more sustainable also in economic terms. In addition, all the measures promoted by the wave of renovation or Renovate Europe have an impact on the construction sector, potentially creating around 1 million additional jobs.
The success of these campaigns depends on the liquidity that the EU and its member states can inject into the issue. An economic recovery package is needed that dedicates capital to the transformation of the EU’s housing stock, thus supporting local job creation and SMEs in the construction and energy efficiency sectors.
The need to act
A letter has recently been sent from Renovate Europe to Ursula Von Der Leyden, President of the European Commission. In it, the organization raises its concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic and its potential effects on the fulfillment of the objectives of the European Green Deal. One of the signatories to the letter is URSA, manufacturer, and distributor of insulation materials. All the affiliates, about 1,000 European companies, demand from the president a renovation fund of 100 billion euros per year to ensure the energy efficiency renovation of the EU’s buildings, with a consequent positive impact on the economic recovery of Europe. As mentioned in the report by Climact and Eurima, the idea is that this fund will serve to achieve a building renovation rate of 3%. Emphasis is also placed on the importance of carrying out renovations in the neighborhoods with the most energy poverty, in hospitals, schools, nursing homes, health centers, or other essential locations and services during these times of fighting the coronavirus.
Put bluntly, this emergency situation has highlighted the need to act now. The climate emergency is still here. Let's not forget about it.
- Big Data
- Building Renovation
- Circular Economy
- Climate change
- CO2 Reduction
- Energy certified
- Energy efficiency
- ESG rating
- Green Deal
- Green Recovery
- Healthy homes
- Human rights
- Mineral wool
- Renovation Wave
- Safe homes
- Safe work
- Solidarity Campaigns
- Thermal insulation
- UN Sustainable Development Goals
- United Nations Global Compact
- We are URSA
- We are Xella
- Xella Group
Protect the climate and stimulate the economy with efficient support programs
At the heart of European climate and energy policy is the creation of structures for a secure, affordable and environmentally compatible energy supply. Given the consequences of the corona pandemic, Europe is also facing massive economic challenges, e.g. rising unemployment, declining economic output, a drastic slump in local business and income tax revenues, cancelled or postponed investments.
The new 55% target for energy efficiency: is it feasible?
Can we reach the new goal of 55% of energy reduction? Of course, we can but we need to set a clear path for local governments to transform goals into executive actions. At Eurima (European Insulation Manufacturers Association) we believe in three main areas key to help all actors to achieve this goal.
Our goal: Safe work
Safety in the workplace is a top priority at URSA as part of Xella Group. That's why we see it as a matter of course to promote the long-term health of our employees and ensure their safety. We want our employees to go home from work every day healthy and unharmed.
#GreenRecovery: Adaptation of Subsidy Programs is Key Now
It is great to see that the German government decided on a green recovery package. It increased the budget for #EnergeticRenovation programs for private and public buildings, and social facilities significantly by 2 billion EUR in 2020 and 2021 totaling each year 2,5 billion EUR to reduce our #CO2emissions.
Big Data and building renovation: out of sight, out of mind
If we use Big Data for almost everything, why not use it for energy efficiency? Right now, we have no real idea of what is going on in Europe´s building stock. Information is key to change things, also in energy efficiency in buildings.
Our goal: A strong team
Our employees form the basis of our long-term success. We want to be an attractive employer in all respects. High-quality training at Xella and investments in our employees' qualifications contribute to this, as do fair, performance-based remuneration, a non-discriminatory working environment, and flexible options for balancing work and family life.
Women in construction
Today, it is still unusual to find women in construction. We would like to stand out one of the exceptions at URSA. Marina explains her work and her daily challenges in an interview in which she claims: "Girls must be empowered to design their future and fight for it"
Our goal: Improving circular economy capabilities
Building materials from Xella consist mainly of natural raw materials and are almost completely recyclable. URSA insulation products are already largely made from reused materials. Therefore, the conversion of value chains to value cycles makes sense for us for ecological and economic reasons. The circular economy is thus a key aspect of our ESG strategy.
Being energy certified means up to 10% more value for your property
The real estate market increasingly values sustainability in buildings. But how to measure your capacity for savings and efficiency? New buyers are willing to pay up to 10% more for properties that can prove their reduced consumption with energy certificates. Insulation is the first step.
Our goal: Reduce CO2 emission intensity by 30% by 2030
URSA will contribute its own efforts to help Xella, the parent group, achieve its ambitious environmental goals aligned with the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.
URSA joins Xella Group in supporting UN Sustainable Development Goals
With our business model, we have a high level of positive impact opportunities. To actively leverage this, we sharpened our ESG focus as part of the review of our Sustainability Strategy 2020 and worked out how our strategy can contribute to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In this core vision, URSA has joined as well to work towards progress and sustainability together and better.
Acting responsibly: Xella joined UN Global Compact
Xella Group has joined the world's largest and most important initiative for responsible corporate governance: The United Nations Global Compact. Xella is committed to the ten sustainable principles in the areas of human rights, labor standards, the environment, and corruption prevention.
Our grain of sand to a Net Zero society
Xella has started an ambitious ESG journey and URSA has jumped on this train. Among our commitments, URSA MW insulation solutions will incorporate up to 80 % recycled materials in their manufacturing, besides other concrete and tangible objectives for occupational safety, diversity, and corporate social responsibility.
The first step towards insulation: mineral wool
Good insulation provides comfort, safety and sustainability for the home. Glass mineral wool solutions offer thermal and acoustic comfort, directly contributing to the reduction of CO2 emissions in the European Union.
Dialog with our stakeholders and our essential sustainability topics
Our mission is to enable energy-efficient and long-lasting housing – and to provide as sustainably as possible. To achieve this goal and keep improving, we are in constant exchange with our stakeholders.
Solidarity goes beyond borders
At this important time, we want to promote the value of solidarity by sharing the different initiatives carried out by the different URSA regions with the aim of preserving the basic needs of people and contributing to a decent life.
Sustainability at Xella: Best in Class in our industry
The reputable ESG rating agency Sustainalytics has given Xella a rating of 18.3, putting Xella in first place out of all 115 companies in the building materials sector assessed by Sustainalytics. Sustainalytics therefore classifies the risk of financial impact caused by ESG aspects at Xella as low.
Energy efficient and affordable housing – delivered sustainably
URSA, as part of Xella Group, stands for innovative, safe and sustainable building and insulation materials and is the solution provider for energy-efficient, healthy and cost-optimized construction. Thus, our product portfolio contributes to decarbonization and to a low-carbon construction sector.
Making open plan offices work – insulation, the critical ingredient
Open spaces have been a growing trend since 1990. But they are not always the most suitable option depending on where you are in the world. The sustainability, comfort and profitability of a business space or open space home will depend on insulation, climate and location.
Does the circular economy help minimize the environmental effects of the construction industry?
Applying the principle of the circular economy to construction materials and the renovation of buildings offers benefits not only for the sector but for society in general. The architect must be a fundamental part of this change in the way the world thinks.