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Europe’s cultural heritage in danger

Lawmakers and associations warned that the recently proposed update to the EU’s Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) could threaten Europe’s cultural heritage, since thousands of unlisted buildings could fall under renovation obligations.

The EPBD is part of the 2021 Commission Work Programme “Fit for 55” package and complements the other components of the package proposed in July 2021, setting the vision for achieving a zero-emission building stock by 2050. According to the proposal, this directive is particularly important, since buildings account for 40% of the energy consumed and 36% of energy-related direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions. Making Europe more resilient calls for the renovation of EU buildings, making them more energy efficient and less dependent on fossil fuels.

The provisions of the proposal on major renovation are complemented with new EU-level minimum energy performance standards, which require class G buildings to be renovated and improved to at least energy performance class F at the latest by 2027 and to at least energy performance class E at the latest by 2030, and the worst-performing residential buildings to at least class F by 2030 and to at least class E by 2033.

Member States may decide not to apply the minimum energy performance standards to buildings officially protected as part of a designated environment or because of their special architectural or historical merit, in so far as compliance with the standards would unacceptably alter their character or appearance.

However, Member States such as Italy or France fear that homeowners will be forced into costly renovations for old buildings if their buildings are not listed as historical buildings and therefore would not be exempted from the EPBD’s renovation obligation. Based on the current version of the EPBD, “each EU country will be in charge of defining its own rules” when it comes to the renovation criteria, which means obligations for unlisted historical buildings will be defined later on at the national level.

The proposal is currently awaiting Parliament’s position in 1st reading.