By Adrian Joyce, Director of the Renovate Europe Campaign

The Renovate Europe Campaign (REC) impatiently awaits the text of the European Commission Communication and Action Plan on creating a Renovation Wave in the EU.  We are encouraged that the huge energy saving potential of the building stock in the EU is at last being mentioned at the highest political levels across the EU and in its Member States.  Still, we are concerned that turning words into actions will still elude our national leaders and so we asked the Buildings Performance Institute Europe (BPIE) to undertake a Study on the positive economic and other impacts that creating and implementing ambitious building renovation programmes can bring.  Not surprisingly, they are varied and significant!

For the plans of the EU Member States and of the EU itself to succeed, they should be based on sound argumentation and on solid evidence that the effort will be worthwhile for all.  Member States have tended to shy away from taking action on buildings, as to do so at the scale that is needed, will impact the daily lives of millions of EU citizens.  Nevertheless, the realisation has dawned on political leaders that without action on buildings, the future looks bleak and, in particular, the ambition to adorn the EU with the first climate-neutral economy in the world will be just a pipe-dream.

To change mindsets, we constantly seek to present convincing, well-researched arguments as to why the effort is worthwhile.  This approach has been the “red thread” of the REC since its inception in 2011, and in planning for the Renovation Wave, we have reinforced our approach in partnership with the BPIE.  The 40 partners of the REC hold the view that it will be of crucial importance to ensure that the early implementation stages of the Renovation Wave Action Plan are successful.  We see this as THE opportunity to finally transform the lives of all our citizens, creating a highly energy efficient, decarbonised and healthy building stock.

So, what are the benefits that will flow from taking ambitious action on energy renovation of the building stock in the EU?  From a detailed scan of 35 recent reports on the jobs and other benefits of energy renovation, the BPIE has found:

On jobs and economic impact:

  • For every €1 million invested in energy renovation of buildings, an average of 18 jobs are created in the EU.  These are local, long-term jobs that will stimulate economic activity across the EU
  • The number of jobs created per €1 million invested varies across the EU depending on national circumstances and employment cost.  The Study reports that those numbers, for selected countries that have recently researched the issue, are: Croatia, 29; Estonia, 17; Finland, 16; Italy, 15 and Spain, 18
  • At national level, the Study found that it costs an average of €14,000 to create a job in construction in Spain, whilst in the same country it costs €20,000 to support an unemployed worker.  In addition, for each €1 of public money spent on energy renovation, the Spanish government gets €0.62 in return within one year, mainly via taxation.

On macro-economic benefits by building segment:

  • Holistic, energy efficient renovation of office buildings increases productivity by about 12% leading to a potential benefit of about €500 billion to the economy per year
  • Well-designed and executed energy renovation of hospitals reduces the average patient stay by about 11%, producing potential savings of about €45 billion per year to the healthcare sector
  • For homes, it was found that in France medical costs of about €930 million per year are linked to poor quality housing.  If we include the indirect consequences of such ill-health (absenteeism, lower productivity etc.), poor quality housing could be costing the French economy as much as €20 billion per year.

The clear message that comes from this Study is that investing in the energy renovation of our building stock is a very rewarding choice.  It brings personal benefits, societal benefits, and economic benefits.

The REC is convinced that it is now up to each Member State of the EU to include energy renovation of our building stock in their Recovery and Resilience Plans so that the promised renovation wave can be successfully rolled out with many undercurrents of multiple benefits for all.