Irish building sector urges EU to prioritise decarbonising the built environment

Leading Irish construction companies have joined a coalition of building sector leaders and The Irish Green Building Council calling on the European Commission to support the decarbonisation of the built environment through ambitious policies.

The group, which represents over 4500 members across the building sector value chain, signed a letter today requesting that the Commission ensure the review of key legislative files, such as the Energy Performance of Buildings directive address the total environmental impact of buildings across their full life cycle.

Ali Grehan, City Architect, Dublin City Council added: “Half a million homes will be built in Ireland up to 2040. Emissions will be released to quarry, transport and manufacture building materials, in addition to constructing these homes. This will have a significant impact on our carbon emissions. We cannot reach carbon neutrality, unless we tackle the total environmental impacts of the built environment across its entire lifecycle.”

David Browne, Managing Director, RKD Architects said: “Companies and governments must act effectively and consistently to deliver a fully decarbonised, circular built environment. There is great scope for innovation and scaling of new ideas, but sustainability must be embedded in all projects from design stages.”

Pat Barry, CEO of the Irish Green Building Council (IGBC) said: “To date, legislation and policy focus have been on tackling operational carbon. I.e. the emissions associated with the energy we use to heat and light our homes. While new homes built to current building regulations should be very energy efficient, we are only addressing part of our sector’s environmental impact.

This open letter shows strong support from leading Irish construction companies for policies that address the environmental impact of buildings across their full life cycle.”

Letter’s signatories include Ali Grehan, City Architect, Dublin City Council; David Browne, Managing Director, RKD Architects; Steve Murphy, Managing Director – Technical Operations, Hines Europe; Phelim O’Neill, Head of Property, Land Development Agency; Paul O’Neill, Head of Cost Planning, Cairn Homes; Green Party and Social Democrats’ Spokespersons for Housing, Francis Noel Duffy TD and Cian O’Callaghan TD; as well as Irish MEP, Ciaran Cuffe.

The open letter is part of the Irish Green Building Council’s #BuildingLife project. #BuildingLife aims to achieve the mix of private sector action and public policy necessary to tackle the whole-life impact of buildings. The IGBC works on the #BuildingLife campaign alongside nine other European Green Building Councils.

Embodied carbon – emitted by the construction, demolition and the wider supply chain of a building – accounts for an estimated 10-20% of the EU’s CO2 building footprint. As outlined in the letter, the signatories consider it crucial for European policy to tackle these emissions in conjunction with operational emissions – produced when buildings are in use – in order to attain climate neutrality by 2050 under the aims of the EU Green Deal.

The actions for the European Commission set out in the letter are:

  • Recognise the full potential of the building sector in delivering a climate neutral Europe.
  • Ensure that the review of key legislative files, including the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD), support a Whole Life Carbon (WLC) approach in addition to accelerating renovation, and greater accountability for achieved performance.
  • Recognise the potential of Level(s) – the EU’s framework for sustainable buildings – to deliver a harmonised implementation of WLC policy, building circularity and adaptability analysis.
  • Deliver the EU Strategy for a Sustainable Built Environment to ensure coherence across policies and coordinate the transition to a sustainable built environment in the EU.
  • Work with the committed network of #BuildingLife stakeholders to develop and deliver these transformative policies.