The COVID-19 pandemic has created challenges for building owners that nobody could have envisaged. New safety rules and regulations cast the old building guidelines, laws, codes, and standards into doubt as we consider how to approach public safety. But the pandemic is not the only thing that is likely to influence building regulations. Here we consider how the pandemic and other challenges may affect how building compliance will look in a decade.
The Pandemic Effect
COVID-19 has changed lives everywhere, from the way people work to how they study and experience health care. Building regulations will need to change to offer enhanced protection during pandemic events. We will need to clarify the rules around worker safety to ensure that buildings provide safe working environments for employees. This should emphasise ventilation and air quality to ensure that the risk of spreading infection is minimised. With both workers and residents experiencing heightened concerns about their health and the safety of the buildings they occupy, the future of building compliance will need to ensure that these concerns are managed in a practical and effective way.
Changes to enhance building safety and quality had already been occurring have before the pandemic, and these have only accelerated, so this moment should be seen as an opportunity to reform building systems and codify the improvements so that they become mainstream and long-lasting. Those involved in building compliance could look at this disruption as an opportunity to learn and grow.
The European Influence
European building policy has been evolving since the 1990s, gradually improving building standards and policies with regard to factors such as renewable energies, indoor environmental quality, and the alleviation of energy poverty.
This is likely to continue for the coming decades, with the key EU legislation designed to overhaul and decarbonise the European building stock. This includes:
- The Clean Energy Package for all Europeans: A wide-ranging set of legislation that defines European climate and energy policy after 2020. The Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD), the Energy Efficiency Directive (EED) and the Renewable Energy Directive (RED) cover key building policy issues from a European perspective.
- A new Circular Economy Action Plan (CEAP): This was adopted in March 2020 to help stimulate Europe’s transition towards a circular economy. It covers the complete life cycle of products and key value chains, including construction and buildings.
- EU energy product policy: The EU has been seeking to make products more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly since 1994, and this extends to building compliance. As well as the Energy Labelling Directive, which aims to provide a simple description of the energy efficiency of products at the point of sale, the Eco-Design Directive enhances the environmental performance of products by establishing obligatory energy efficiency standards and removing the least effective products from the market. The EU has set a goal of improving energy efficiency by 32.5% by 2030 and reaching a decarbonised building stock by 2050. This can be achieved by setting milestones supported by targeted measures and ensuring there are dedicated funding streams for helping manufacturers achieve specific policy targets.
European legislation includes a range of laws and regulations to support high performance and decarbonise the E.U.’s building stock. This legislation includes the calculation of buildings’ energy performance, energy performance certificates, metering of energy consumption and building automation. It also tackles the alleviation of energy poverty, which will have clear social benefits.
European building regulation has been affected by Covid-19 too. In May 2020, as a measure to hep the E.U. recover economically from the Covid-19 pandemic, the European Commission presented a recovery plan for Europe that will deliver an extra €750 billion from 2021 to 2024 to support the green transition to an economy that will not impact the climate negatively. The combination of policies and financing instruments in the European Green Deal, the Renovation Wave and the recovery plan represents an opportunity for governments, companies and citizens across the E.U. to transform Europe’s buildings into a clean, healthy and affordable stock by 2050.
A Positive Future
With the enhancements in building safety and air quality that the pandemic has made necessary, as well as the imperative to keep working toward a greener future, the next decade looks like a bright one for building compliance and regulations. The accelerated drive toward a healthier and safer future for residents of all kinds of buildings is sure to prompt the creation of more stringent building regulations in Ireland and the rest of Europe in coming decades.
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