European Parliament votes on Energy Performance of Buildings Directive and fire safety concerns

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European building stock

As reported by Euralarm, the European Parliament has recently voted in favour of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD).

This directive represents a significant step towards the decarbonisation of the building stock in the European Union.

However, it also introduces new fire safety and security challenges that need to be addressed.

The majority of buildings in the European Union, approximately 85%, were constructed before 2000, with 75% categorized as having inadequate energy performance.

Enhancing the energy efficiency of these buildings is essential for energy conservation and achieving a zero-emission, fully decarbonised building stock by 2050.

Renovation rates currently vary between 0.4% and 1.2% per year, indicating substantial room for improvement both in energy efficiency and economic growth.

Energy Performance of Buildings Directive

To enhance energy performance, the EU has established legislative frameworks including the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive EU/2010/31 and the Energy Efficiency Directive EU/2023/1791.

These frameworks, revised in 2023, promote policies aimed at achieving a highly energy-efficient and decarbonised building stock by 2050, creating a stable investment environment.

This allows consumers and businesses to make informed decisions to save energy and money.

The EPBD includes a new standard for zero-emission buildings and long-term renovation strategies, renamed as national Building Renovation Plans.

Deep renovation, capturing the full potential of a building to reduce energy demand based on its typology and climatic zone, is also introduced.

Elevated fire risks

The push for decarbonisation necessitates further electrification, integrating new technologies into buildings which can elevate fire risks.

Increased electrical loads, the storage of combustible materials for energy systems, and the installation of new technologies like solar panels and battery storage systems pose inherent fire risks.

Enhanced insulation materials, while improving energy efficiency, can be flammable or emit toxic fumes when burning.

These risks call for significant changes in fire safety and security measures.

Understanding and mitigating these risks are crucial for safely transitioning to more energy-efficient and electrified buildings under the Green Deal framework.

New buildings

The EPBD includes standards for new buildings to be equipped for solar installations and have zero-emission capabilities.

This requires advanced insulation materials and consideration of increased fire loads due to the growing number of electronic devices.

Article 7 of the EPBD mandates that member states address issues like optimal indoor environmental quality, fire safety, and accessibility for persons with disabilities.

Regular fire safety reviews by certified professionals are advised, and Article 26 mandates guidance and training on energy performance and fire safety for those implementing the EPBD.

Existing building stock

For buildings undergoing major renovations to improve energy efficiency, the EPBD proposes phasing out fossil fuel-powered boilers starting in 2025 and better integrating energy systems for heating, cooling, and renewable energy.

One-stop shops available in most countries facilitate energy renovations for homeowners and SMEs, making it easier to join the ‘renovation wave’.

Article 8 encourages the use of high-efficiency alternative systems where feasible and mandates consideration of fire safety in major renovations.

Proactively engage in energy efficiency initiatives

Euralarm is urging national fire associations to engage with local governments to provide expertise in building renovations and fire safety.

Their involvement is crucial in shaping policies and practices that ensure community safety.

Local fire safety experts’ knowledge is invaluable in guiding renovations to meet current and emerging fire safety standards.

By collaborating with authorities, fire safety experts can ensure fire safety is a central consideration in all building renovation projects, raising awareness among policymakers, building owners, and end-users.

One stop shops as driver for fire safety

The EPBD’s concept of a “one-stop shop” simplifies compliance with the directive’s requirements, facilitating building renovations and energy performance improvements.

Already implemented in several member states, one-stop shops are expected to handle 5-6% of the renovation volume of 35 million buildings by 2030.

They provide comprehensive support, guidance, and technical assistance throughout renovation projects.

Fire safety experts can use one-stop shops to integrate advanced fire safety measures into renovations and local building codes, ensuring safer living and working environments.

Close collaboration with government officials from the outset can influence regulatory frameworks and enforcement practices concerning fire safety.

Euralarm holistic approach

Euralarm has proposed a holistic approach to fire safety in energy efficiency initiatives.

This involves considering the building structure and contents as a system to understand their impact on fire safety.

Authorities, fire safety engineers, and building owners can then optimise the use of technical means for early fire detection and evacuation.

A comprehensive fire safety plan should be developed, including infrastructure, intended use, occupancy, and fire detection and management systems.

Qualified professionals are needed for all phases of fire safety planning and implementation, following the EN 16763 Services Standard for Fire Safety Systems and Security Systems.

This approach aims for a safer, more resilient built environment across all member states.

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