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European Commission pilots sustainable buildings framework

Open source assessment framework called Level(s) aims to curb greenhouse gas emissions over full lifecycle of a building while ensuring a healthy living space

The European Commission has announced the launch of a pilot for an EU-wide framework for sustainable building construction that aims to broaden debate and understanding of key environmental performance factors.

This is expected to look beyond energy performance to consider wider concerns such as carbon emissions and material use that are already important considerations for heating and cooling suppliers. The framework reflects changing regulatory pressures over how buildings and their internal systems are impacting the environment.

Stakeholders involved with the process of helping devise the framework’s pilot have identified focuses on how building design can influence thermal comfort, indoor air quality, energy performance, water consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

The pilot project, which is known as Level(s), is expected to function as an open source assessment framework to support planning of greenhouse gas emissions over the full lifecycle of a building. It will also look at use of water resources and considerations that are vital for ensuring healthy and comfortable spaces to live and work. 

“Each indicator in Level(s) is designed to link a building’s impact with EU priorities for circular economy, and the framework effectively broadens the building agenda to deliver more of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals,” said the commission in a statement on the pilot. 

James Drinkwater, who serves the director of the World Green Building Council’s Europe Regional Network, said that the creation of Level(s) reflected a growing acceptance of the importance of sustainable building and services.

“Having a common goal to deliver nearly zero-energy buildings across Europe galvanised industry-wide action, and now having a common language around ‘sustainable’ building helps us begin to really transform mainstream practice,” he said.

The framework is expected to run in what is being called a test phase until 2019 with the commission aiming to provide technical assistance on building projects that may wish to help pilot the tool in their own operations.

The tool has been designed via broad industry and public sector consultation with the aim to define a “common language” on creating sustainable buildings in practice.

Level(s) has involved close collaboration with organisations such as construction group Skanska, Saint-Gobain and the Sustainable Building Alliance (SBA).

The SBA said that it had been working on setting out environmental performance indicators to allow for the comparing of sustainable building quality since being formed in 2009. These findings were claimed to have helped influence the European Commission position on improving environmental performance of buildings and reducing their impact on carbon emissions.

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