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OVERVIEW | Exemplary role of public buildings under the Energy Efficiency Directive (EED)

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OVERVIEW – Exemplary role of public buildings under Energy Efficiency Directive

© Georges De Kinder

Obligations under Article 5 of the EED


Article 5 of the Energy Efficiency Directive (EED, Directive 2012/27/EU) complements the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD, Directive 2010/31/EU) with respect to the renovation of existing public buildings. While the EPBD sets minimum energy performance requirements for all buildings that undergo major renovation, Article 5 of the EED sets a binding renovation target for public buildings and imposes related obligations. It also stresses that governments shall undertake an exemplary role in the energy retrofit of their countries’ building stock.


Article 5 includes the following main obligations and criteria for Member States:

  • Default approach: Every year from 2014 onwards, each Member State shall deeply refurbish 3% of the buildings owned or occupied by central government. The 3% rate shall be calculated on the total useful floor area of buildings which have a useful floor area over 250 m2 (the threshold was lowered from the original 500 m2 as of 9 July 2015) and which on January 1 of each year do not meet the national minimum energy performance requirements (as set under Article 4 of the EPBD).  By end 2013 all Member States should have established and reported to the European Commission a publicly available inventory of their heated and/or cooled central government buildings displaying the total useful floor area (m²) and the energy performance (or relevant data) of every building falling under the provisions of this article. This inventory serves as the basis for the calculation of the 3% refurbishment rate.
  • Alternative approach: Member States were allowed to choose other cost effective measures in central government buildings, e.g. deep renovations, energy audits and behavioural change of occupants, etc., to achieve at least an equivalent amount of savings as through the default approach. Member States opting for this alternative approach have to estimate the energy saving potential of their measures. The establishment of an inventory of central governmental buildings is not mandatory in this case, but is recommended to ensure the accuracy of targets. Member States had to report their choice of alternative measures to the European Commission by 31 December 2013.
  • Member States shall prioritise the refurbishment of buildings with the worst energy performance.
  • Member States must ensure that an Energy Performance Certificate is issued for public buildings frequently visited by the public and having a total useful floor area above 250 m².
  • Member States shall encourage public bodies, including those at regional and local level, as well as social housing bodies governed by public law, to follow the exemplary role of the central government, adapting energy efficiency plans, implementing energy management systems in their buildings, and making use of energy performance contracting and the services of ESCOs (Energy Service Companies).


Opportunities and challenges of the implementation


The current average building energy renovation rate in the EU is below 1%. The raison d'être of EED Article 5 (and the closely related articles 4 and 6) is to boost energy refurbishment in the central government sector, thus showcasing deep renovation of public buildings and inspiring the sub-national government level. Therefore Article 5 is seen as a great opportunity to kick-start the deep energy retrofit market, by NGOs and construction sector organisations advocating energy refurbishment and increased energy performance of the European building stock.


The obligations under Article 5 of the EED, and in particular the tight deadlines for its implementation, represent a challenge for the majority of Member States, as reported by the Concerted Action EED.  The niche of central government buildings was not a particular focus area of National Building Renovation Strategies which considered the wider range of public buildings including schools, hospitals, public cultural buildings, etc. Some Member States were reluctant to have their central governments communicate the spending of public resources on their own building stock. On the other hand Member States also noted a lack of skills and experience with major energy renovation investments: 57% of the Member States reported that they don’t have any experience with energy performance contacting or ESCOs.


CA EED report on public sector – public buildings and public purchasing

Report on public sector – public buildings and public purchasing, Concerted Action EED, 2014


Current status of implementation


Although the obligations and criteria of Article 5 are very clear, the implementation of the Article, as well as the transposition of the EED in general, has been delayed in almost every Member State. In view of the situation, the European Commission launched in March 2015 infringement procedures against 27 EU Member States.


In June 2014, six months after the reporting deadline for Member States, the Buildings Performance Institute of Europe (BPIE) analysed the status of implementation. A comprehensive study by the Energy Coalition followed, most recently updated in May 2015.


Out of the EU28 only 11 countries are using the default approach (see ‘Obligations under Article 5 of the EED’ above) for calculating the renovation rate. Out of those 11, six reported publicly available inventories of their central government buildings. The links or reports are published directly on the DG Energy website following the national EED implementation. The quality of the inventories varies and some of them don’t comply with the requirements of the Directive. The Romanian and Hungarian inventories only provide aggregated information per group of buildings and only Latvia and Slovenia provide all the requested data in the inventories. The estimation on energy savings by 2020 is not requested in case of the default approach, and only Latvia provides information on this.


Implementing the EU Energy Efficiency Directive - Analysis of Member States plans to implement Article 5, Energy Coalition

Implementing the EU Energy Efficiency Directive - Analysis of Member States plans to implement Article 5, Energy Coalition, 2015


Member States opting for the default approach should report the building stock annually renovated from 2014 onwards. According to the EC Guidance note on EED implementation, the annual 3% renovation rate can be allocated flexible in 3-year periods. No ongoing renovations of central government buildings have been reported so far across Europe, so it is likely that renovations will advance as we get closer to 2020. 


Of the 17 countries following the alternative approach, five (Ireland, Croatia, Malta, Slovakia, Spain) have delivered inventories with detailed data on the eligible buildings. In addition, all have by now submitted reports of planned measures with different levels of detail and compliance. Some Member States (e.g. Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Italy, The Netherlands and Malta) have provided a comprehensive list of measures with estimated savings for each, while others (Denmark, Ireland, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain and the United Kingdom) list examples of measures with reference to existing building policies and only estimate the total savings.


While several countries that chose the alternative approach list energy renovation measures, only Belgium, Italy and Slovakia have explicitly committed to deep renovation in their reports. Savings through behavioural change of employees represent the most common alternative measure; Member States opting for this alternative usually refer to their existing policies and schemes as alternative measures. Austria, Finland, Belgium (Flanders), France, Malta and the United Kingdom make use of estate rationalisation and floor area reduction to achieve energy savings, proving the significant flexibility of the alternative approach.


Leading by example – some good practice cases


Although one cannot expect the EED to have brought forward deep refurbishment projects on its own, there are already some good examples of energy renovation of public buildings. Only some of these have been implemented at the central government level, while the majority fall under regional and local governments, as well as within the broader range of public buildings. The refurbishment of existing buildings – eventually to more ambitious energy performance level such as Nearly Zero Energy Buildings (NZEB) or positive energy buildings – represents a formidable challenge. Therefore, existing cases often combine refurbishment with new construction, for instance the Brussels Capital Region Parliament building.


Central government and public buildings are often protected or have historical value, which makes their refurbishment even more demanding. Although Member States may exclude historical structures from the building stock covered by Article 5, there are some good examples within the reports and inventories showing that protected buildings are considered eligible. There are also some good examples from the local level, such as the refurbishment of the Tourist office of Troyes or the Champneuville city hall in France.


Leading by example goes beyond investment projects, to numerical targets and building databases. It is vital to generate a spill-over effect and promote building refurbishment and energy-conscious use of buildings among the wider public. This can be done by targeting the behaviour of occupants, raising awareness, and communicating savings achieved either through the refurbishment of prominent landmarks or by issuing and displaying Energy Performance Certificates in buildings frequently accessed by the public. As an example, Denmark reports on its tradition of energy efficiency in the public sector, whereby each ministry has to set energy saving targets and report annually the efforts done to reduce energy and water consumption.


The importance of the regional and local levels


Article 5 of the EED is strongly linked to Article 4 requiring the elaboration and annual update of National Renovation Strategies as from 2012. The strategies and related action plans contain the concrete short term refurbishment plans of the Member States, including inventories of the building stock. Many of the national renovation strategies include measures on deep energy refurbishment of central government and public buildings.


In several federally structured Member States (such as Austria, Germany, Italy, Spain) the competence of elaborating support schemes and financial incentives lies with the regions. Regions and cities play a very important exemplary role for citizens, and the examples listed show that the majority of frontrunner investments are implemented by regional and local authorities. Initiatives such as the Covenant of Mayors promoting the development of comprehensive Sustainable Energy Action Plans, or the Energycities with its successful Display campaign, as well as frontrunner pilot projects financed by the European Commission, are usually linked to regions and cities that have been leading by example for many years.


Regions also play an important role in the actual implementation and financing of deep renovation projects. Article 5 specifically requests that Member States encourage regions, local authorities and public bodies to follow their example in planning and implementing energy refurbishment.  A significant part of the massive financial resources needed for energy refurbishment investments – including the refurbishment of buildings covered by Article 5 – will come from Cohesion Policy programmes and will be financed by the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) in the 2014-2020 financial periods. DG REGIO provides guidance to Member States on the development of appropriate support programmes and schemes for large-scale energy renovation. In cooperation with DG Energy and the EASME, DG REGIO will organise a joint Open Days workshop on 18th October 2015, on Financing Energy Efficiency in Buildings, Heating & Cooling.




The core aim of Article 5 of the Energy efficiency Directive (EED) is to ensure that central governments play a leading role in the energy renovation of buildings, paving the way for ambitious large-scale renovation of the entire European building stock. The scope of the Directive was restricted to central government buildings during the legislating process, contrary to the initial proposal of the European Commission. As a result, the direct impact of Article 5 on the European building stock is also likely to be limited. Its role is perhaps more symbolic, although it could be expected to generate a spill-over effect.


The implementation of Article 5 and the transposition of the whole EED have suffered significant delays in all Member States, which underlines the Directive’s high ambition as well as the challenges that Member States face during its implementation. The alternative approach was adopted by 17 Member States because of its greater flexibility. Yet the evidence reveals that Member States began to analyse the energy performance of their central government buildings and to plan their energy refurbishment even when they had opted for the alternative approach.


As stated by high level officials, the European Commission is committed to enforcing the implementation of the EU’s energy efficiency-related directives and policies, following the “energy efficiency first” principle. With this in mind one can expect that the Commission will ensure strict implementation and compliance with the EED requirements, and that deep energy renovation of central government building stocks should take off in the coming years.


Excellent information!... thanks