Barriers for sustainable building and how to overcome: MountEE survey in 5 European mountain regions

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Following the European Energy Performance of Building Directive, by January 2021, all new buildings including existing buildings undergoing major renovation will have to meet NZEB nearly zero energy building standard.
For many municipalities the transition to a new sustainable and energy efficient way of building is a major challenge. Most of them lack know-how, experience and funding. Mountain municipalities are facing additional challenges: extreme climate, low accessibility, small entities, low population density and lack of innovation.

In a first step of MountEE project, the project partners carried out a more in depth regional investigation of the knowledge gaps and needs in the area of sustainable buildings. These are the conclusions short summarized by NENET, Norrbotten Energy Agency.

Technical barriers are not the main problem
There are still technical challenges regarding sustainable buildings. But unproven technology is not considered as the main deficit for working with sustainable buildings today. Exchange, communication and training on technical knowledge are needed more urgent! 

European standards are needed
Standards of what a truly sustainable building, what a passive- or a low-energy building is vary a lot across Europe. There is neither an international standard on how to calculate energy demand. Besides that, calculation and real energy demand can differ a lot. Creating international standards plus creating better ways how to calculate energy demand in advance and on how to prove in the operating phase would push the sector a lot.

Organization of the building process is crucial
Building processes are complex and involve a broad range of player. Therefore, a regional network for private and public sustainable building stakeholders including funding institutions and research would support the implementation of successful projects. An ambitious regional strategy can open up market also for new and innovative SMEs!

Quality control and maintenance create trust
To increase trust in sustainable building projects, and to avoid unexpected economic losses, improving quality control and maintenance is of utmost importance.

High priority for training, education and capacity building
Lack of know-how is one main barrier for accomplishing sustainable building projects: from general awareness raising to sustainable building and current legislation on Green Procurement both for awarding authority and for business to answer call for tenders. All stakeholders need trainings, from public authorities and public housing association to technicians, building companies, consultants, architects and craftsmen to users.

Consultancy, advice and support even more important for mountain regions
For European mountain regions with their often small municipalities, consultancy, advice and support is decisive for overcoming barriers. In some regions, the high number of barriers today can discourage public authorities and companies to implement ambitious projects.

Adapting financial tools and funding schemes
In some countries, it is necessary to adapt and apply existing schemes, while in other countries additional instruments need to be created. This should be done in a dialogue with funding institutions, not at least on the regional level. Applying LCC analysis and pooling short-term and long-term economic measures would help to overcome economic barriers in many cases.

We need to show good examples and thereby create demand
Pilot projects within MountEE provide a unique chance to transfer good examples and to test and adapt tools. By pushing pilot projects, showing local stakeholders that sustainable building is possible and thereby increasing demand, even the supply of eco-material will be promoted and improved.

The more detailed report on barriers can be find on this page.

A lot of work still to be done to create a sustainable building future, but several existing best practice examples show the way already today!

Wolfgang Mehl, Nenet Norrbottens Energy Agency, wolfgang@nenet.se

Wolfgang Mehl (Nenet)

Author: Wolfgang Mehl (Nenet)

I work as project manager for e environmental and energy-related programs for Nenet and the north Swedish municipality Jokkmokk.

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