EU policy framework

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The EU2020 strategy from 2010 sets the course for the European economy for the following ten years and beyond by focusing on three main priorities: smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. The EU does not have any specific responsibilities with respect to housing; rather, national governments develop their own housing policies. But still, many of the EU Member States face similar challenges: for example how to promote sustainable development and how to promote energy efficiency of buildings. Knowing and referring to the main EU institutional and policy context is of great importance for the project ViSiBLE.

EU institutional context

Several European institutions directly deal with the topic of the assessment of the sustainability of our built environment. The most important are the following:

  • Environment: The Directorate-General for the Environment (DG Environment) is responsible for the European Union policy area of the environment.
  • Enterprise and Industry: The European Commission's Directorate-General for Enterprise and Industry has the mission to promote a growth-friendly framework for European enterprises. It has a key role in the Europe 2020 agenda of smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.
  • Committee for Standardization (CEN): The European Committee for Standardization (CEN, French: Comité Européen de Normalisation) is a non-profit organisation whose mission is to foster the European economy in global trading, the welfare of European citizens and the environment by providing an efficient infrastructure to interested parties for the development, maintenance and distribution of coherent sets of standards and specifications.
  • Joint Research Centre: The European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) is a department (Directorate-General, DG) of the European Commission providing independent scientific and technological support for EU policy-making. It works closely on the development of EU legislation with the relevant Commission services, such as the Enterprise and Environment DGs.

EU policy context

  • Europe 2020 Strategy: This is the main EU policy framework which sets the goals of “smart, sustainable and inclusive growth”. Project ViSiBLE contributes to this strategy by supporting the shift towards a low carbon economy and promoting energy efficiency.
  • A resource-efficient Europe – Flagship initiative of the Europe 2020 Strategy: The flagship initiative for a resource-efficient Europe under the Europe 2020 strategy supports the shift towards a resource-efficient, low-carbon economy to achieve sustainable growth.
  • Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe: This roadmap defines the medium and long term objectives and means needed for achieving the goals set in the flagship initiative “resource-efficient Europe”. According to the roadmap, “by 2020 the renovation and construction of buildings and infrastructure will be made to high resource efficiency levels (nZEBs). The Life-cycle approach will be widely applied; all new buildings will be nearly zero-energy and highly material efficient and policies for renovating the existing building stock will be in place”.
  • Energy Roadmap 2050: The EU is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 80-95% below 1990 levels by 2050. In the Energy Roadmap 2050 the Commission explores the challenges posed by delivering the EU's decarbonisation objective while at the same time ensuring security of energy supply and competitiveness. It states that: “Higher energy efficiency in new and existing buildings is the key. Nearly zero energy buildings should become the norm. Buildings – including homes – could produce more energy than they use”.
  • Communication on Sustainable Buildings: At the moment, EU policy on resource use in buildings is restricted to energy efficiency. In 2014, the sustainable buildings communication will be launched and address this issue. Existing policies for promoting energy efficiency and renewable energy use in buildings need to be complemented with policies for resource efficiency on a wider range. Furthermore, such policies would contribute to a competitive construction sector and the development of a resource efficient building stock.
  • Strategy for the sustainable competitiveness of the construction sector and its enterprises: The strategy was developed by DG Enterprise. It defines key challenges for sustainable competiveness such as resource efficiency and environmental performance; furthermore, it determines the need for harmonised methods for environmental assessments on construction and proposes approaches for mutual recognition or harmonisation.

Snapshot of EU sustainable buildings directives

  • Performance of Buildings Directive: The energy performance of buildings directive obliges Member States to apply minimum requirements on the energy performance of new and existing buildings when undergoing major renovation. The directive covers both residential and the non-residential sector. It requires that all new buildings must fulfil a near zero-energy standard by the end of 2020.
  • Other important EU directives are: Ecodesign Directive, Energy Efficiency Directive (will replace Energy Services Directive), Construction Products Regulation, Energy Labelling Directive, Waste Framework Directive, Water Framework Directive.
  • 350: “Sustainability of Construction Works” has started the process of creating a common EU framework of indicators and calculation methodologies for both product and building level. It has the advantage of covering environmental, social and economic aspects, which is crucial for any EU initiative on sustainable buildings.[1]


  1. ViSiBLE communication strategy (2013):