The European Green Deal published by the European Commission in December 2019 pushes Europe to step up its effort to contribute to keeping the global average temperature rise below 1.5°C as the threshold indicated by science to avoid the climate change impacts incompatible with life on the planet. It aims to make Europe the first carbon-neutral continent, aiming for no net emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050. One of the main goals is to transform the EU into a modern, resource-efficient, and competitive economy.
The graph below visualizes all the policies, initiatives, and communication activities related to the European Green Deal, that matter to the EU cosntruction industry.
The Green Deal addresses construction as one of the key topics for the green transition since buildings account for 40% of the energy consumed and 36% of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions.
Graphic: Construction Products Europe
The European Union underlines the importance of
Encouraging durability and circularity in products
Doubling the renovation rate to accelerate energy refurbishment
Increase the use of renewable energy
Incentivize the Member States to cut emissions in buildings
SUSTAINABLE PRODUCTS INITIATIVE (SPI)
The SPI is a key part of the Circular Economy Action plan (CEAP). As main action the initiative will widen the scope of the Eco-design Directive (now: Regulation) and define complementary legislative proposals to regulate sustainability aspects of products such as durability, reusability, upgradability, and reparability; the presence of hazardous chemicals; energy and resource efficiency; recycled content remanufacturing and carbon and environmental footprints.
EPPA supports clear assessment and communication on the sustainability of products. For construction products, this assessment is performed following EN15804 and must always be considered in the individual building context. Therefore, EPPA supports the introduction of sustainability assessment following EN15804 into the legal framework of the Construction Products Regulation (CPR). The CPR is the adequate legal instrument to cover such an assessment and any overlap with other legislation, such as the Ecodesign Regulation, must be avoided.
As a part of the Green Deal, the Renovation Wave initiative aims at renovating millions of buildings, increasing the renovation rate to at least 2 % in the next decade, boosting the economy in periods of recovery, delivering better houses to Europeans, and supporting the 2050 climate neutrality goal.
EPPA and its members support the Renovation Wave aiming to improve the quality and renovation rate of European building stock to increase its energy efficiency.
Windows are an essential part of building renovation, replacing an old window with a new PVC double or triple-glazed window is the single most cost-effective energy renovation measure for buildings. Replacing an old window from the 1980s with a new PVC window can increase energy savings up to 70-75%. Thus, window replacement could easily save more than 15% of the whole heating needs of the existing European building stock.
Increasing the renovation rate of buildings from 1.2% to 2 % per year will mean that many windows will be replaced. Today there are around 650 million PVC windows installed across Europe. With the increased renovation rate expected, millions of PVC windows will be available for recycling per year, offering a valuable and sustainable raw material for new windows.
The European Green Deal has the potential to support our circular value chain by raising awareness on sustainability performance and legislation for energy-efficient buildings, refurbishment, and circular business models.
CHEMICALS STRATEGY FOR SUSTAINABILITY
The Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability sets out actions to make chemicals safe and sustainable by design. The initiative shall ensure that chemicals can deliver all their benefits without harming humans or the environment. Simultaneously, The Commission also promotes the use of secondary raw materials, the establishment of non-toxic material cycles, and innovation in industrial production processes. EPPA agrees that knowledge on the presence of substances of very high concern through the life cycle of materials and products is important.
There is a need to harmonize requirements along the value chain (waste, REACH and product legislation). The most sustainable solution should be determined based on scientific assessment and harmonized criteria. It will be the key challenge for the upcoming years to integrate substance assessment into life cycle assessments to define truly sustainable solutions and uses, which consider susbtances in the context of their use and end of life scenario.
CONNECTING DOTS BETWEEN THE RENOVATION WAVE AND CHEMICAL STRATEGY FOR SUSTAINABILITY
The PVC profile industry supports the implementation of both initiatives, to minimize climate impacts through reducing energy and raw material use (less virgin PVC, more recyclate). Thus, the most important is to ensure that the most sustainable end-of-life solution for PVC windows is supported and furthered, to make both, the CSS and the renovation wave a success.
PVC windows play a crucial role in both of them: For instance, a 40% recyclate content in new window profiles saves emissions of 12 kg CO2-eq. per window unit during the production phase. Already today PVC windows are circular construction products, PVC windows are recycled in controlled and closed loops, ensuring full traceability and re-use of the valuable resource PVC-U. Old windows serve as the raw material supply for new profiles.
Life cycle assessments have shown that recycling is by far the best end-of-life management option for PVC windows.T he replacement of windows (next to insulation and roofing) is the preferred action of choice for energy-efficient building renovation. In the upcoming years, millions of PVC windows will reach their end of life annually, which need to be recycled and kept in the loop.
Hence, vital synergies for windows on circularity, recycling, and energy efficiency can be identified