The Energy Performance of Buildings Directive: Enhancing Building Energy Performance and Sustainability in the EU with a Focus on German Alignment.

The Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) is a comprehensive framework that outlines critical strategies to enhance building energy performance, particularly during major renovations. The directive emphasizes the importance of deep renovations, staged renovation passports, and substantial support for improving energy efficiency. It also aligns with existing German policies and incentives, highlighting potential improvement areas. The EPBD’s focus on sustainability, occupant health, and safety underscores its significance in contributing to the EU’s long-term energy efficiency and sustainability goals.

For building renovations, the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive identifies numerous critical strategies to increase building energy performance, focusing on multi-family structures. These measures include the following:

Enhancing Energy Performance

  • Deep renovations must improve energy performance if technically, operationally, and economically possible.
  • Retrofitting or replacing building elements with significant energy impact must meet minimum requirements, considering feasibility.
  • Member States should promote high-efficiency alternative systems for major building renovations, considering various factors.

 Specific Rehabilitation Measures

  • Car parks and electrical infrastructure in large renovations must be specifically rehabilitated.
  • Pre-cabling should allow simultaneous use of recharging outlets on all parking spots or as many bicycle parking places as appropriate.

Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs)

  • EPCs will include recommendations for cost-effective improvements unless the building already meets energy performance class A.
  • Recommendations for EPCs apply to substantial upgrades of the building exterior, technical systems, and individual building elements.

[1]Adaptation and Resilience Measures

  • Policies and actions aim to improve building climate resilience, promote energy services, improve fire safety, prepare for disasters, remove hazardous chemicals, and improve accessibility.

The European Union is driving significant changes in the energy performance of buildings, with a focus on decarbonizing buildings and achieving energy efficiency. This includes setting national minimum energy performance standards, improving Energy Performance Certificates, and promoting the gradual phase-out of fossil fuel-powered boilers[3]. Financing options, such as EU funding and national support measures, are available to address the financial challenges associated with energy-efficient building renovations[4].

These guidelines aim to ensure that renovations considerably improve building energy efficiency and overall performance, emphasizing sustainability and occupant health and safety.

For Green Home audience, it important how the directive defines “deep renovation”:

The Energy Performance of Buildings Directive defines “deep renovation” as significantly improving a building’s energy efficiency. Specifically, a deep renovation is defined as renovations that comply with the first principle of energy efficiency to transform buildings before 2030 or after 2030:

Before January 1, 2030: The goal is to convert a building or building unit to a practically zero-energy structure. This phase focuses on the transition to buildings with very high energy performance, with nearly zero or very low energy requirements covered largely by renewable energy, including energy produced on-site or nearby.

As of January 1, 2030, the regulation establishes a more ambitious aim for converting buildings to zero-emission structures. This term refers to buildings with a low carbon footprint, meaning the net quantity of carbon emissions produced on-site is zero or negative, often achieved by combining energy efficiency measures and using renewable energy sources.

Obviously, it is in the owners’ interest to decide sooner rather than later.

A “staged deep renovation” is defined as a deep renovation carried out in many steps in accordance with a planned roadmap outlined in a renovation passport, which describes the sequence of renovation activities to improve the building’s energy performance considerably.

Furthermore, in cases when it is physically and economically impractical to completely transform a building into a zero-emission structure, a renovation that results in at least a 60% reduction in primary energy use is deemed a deep renovation under the regulation. The directive aims to achieve sustainable, low-carbon, and energy-efficient buildings that contribute to the EU’s climate goals and energy efficiency targets by providing flexibility and practicality in improving energy performance within existing buildings.

The directive reflects the drafters’ emphasis on encouraging deep renovations or comprehensive renovations. Our comment is that this is because much of this housing stock will need to be maintained for the next century.

The Energy Performance of Buildings Directive strongly emphasizes encouraging substantial renovations through various rules meant to meet the significant obstacles to improve energy performance in buildings across the EU. Here are some crucial points in the directive’s language that underscore this focus:

  • Staged Deep Renovations and Renovation Passports: The guideline recognizes the potential high upfront costs and disruptions of major renovations “in one go” and proposes staggered deep renovations as a viable solution. It emphasizes the significance of meticulously arranging these renovations to ensure that future stages are not hampered. Renovation passports are emphasized as a useful tool for giving a clear path for stages of extensive renovations, allowing owners and investors to plan interventions more successfully. Member States are invited to offer refurbishment passports as an optional tool. For this reason, while it is an invitation, we believe that with proper financing, the “in one go” option would provide better results for the residents, the owners, and the state and unlock long-term private financing.
  • Greater Support for Deep Renovation: In accordance with the Renovation Wave strategy’s goals, the directive requires Member States to offer greater financial, administrative, and technical support for deep renovations. This includes improving energy performance and indoor environmental quality, eliminating asbestos and other dangerous substances, and assuring compliance with current legislation.
  • Deep Renovation Incentives: The directive clearly requires Member States to provide increased financial, fiscal, administrative, and technical support for deep and phased deep renovations. Efforts are underway to reduce primary energy use in many buildings, especially those underperforming.
  • Addressing Non-Economic impediments: It focuses on removing non-economic impediments to building rehabilitation, such as requiring unanimity in co-ownership arrangements or allowing co-ownership structures to receive financial help directly. This guide seeks to help building owners overcome common issues during deep renovations.
  • Financial Measures and Technical Assistance: The directive details the implementation of suitable financial and technical assistance, focusing on vulnerable households and those experiencing energy poverty. The report emphasizes the need for integrated funding models that incentivize deep and staged improvements, eliminating dual incentives and monitoring social repercussions.
  • Promotion of High-Efficiency Systems: Wherever possible, buildings undergoing substantial renovations are encouraged to incorporate high-efficiency alternative systems. This involves improving indoor environmental quality, adapting to climate change, ensuring fire safety, removing hazardous substances, and providing accessibility for all.

These considerations highlight the directive’s significant emphasis on thorough renovations as a crucial method for improving building energy performance, contributing to the EU’s long-term energy efficiency goals, greenhouse gas emissions reduction, and built-environment sustainability.

Strong Alignment with existing German policies and incentives:

  • Upgrading Energy Performance: Germany’s Building Energy Act (GEG) currently establishes minimum energy performance requirements for renovations, which are broadly consistent with the EPBD’s “nearly zero-energy building” aim of 2050.
  • Retrofitting Building Envelope Elements: Several German programs, such as the Building Energy Sanierungsprogramm (BEG), offer envelope element modifications that meet the EPBD’s requirements.
  • Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs): Germany, like the EPBD, requires EPCs with recommendations for improvement.
  • Adaptation and Resilience Measures: German policies prioritize fire safety, accessibility, and climate resilience, mirroring the EPBD’s goals.
  • Encouragement of Deep Renovations: The KfW Development Banks program provides subsidies for deep renovations that exceed minimal standards, demonstrating conformity with the EPBD’s priority.


Points of Difference:

  • Deep Renovation Definition: Germany’s GEG (55% primary energy reduction) is less ambitious than the EPBD’s 60% for deep renovations that do not meet zero-emission criteria.
  • While various German programs encourage phased renovations, there is no national necessity for renovation passports, as opposed to the EPBD’s encouragement.
  • Incentives for substantial renovations: While Germany provides financial assistance, the EPBD specifies larger incentives than current German laws. The obstacle is a financial one: we lack a long-term affordable solution: 30-45 years tenor is necessary.
  • Addressing Non-Economic Barriers: While Germany has efforts in place to address co-ownership issues, more should be done to comply with the EPBD’s emphasis on eliminating non-economic barriers.
  • Overall, German regulations coincide with the EPBD recast’s goal of enhancing multi-family building energy efficiency, which is exceeded in certain Ländesr such as Bavaria.
  • Aligning the definition of a deep renovation, adopting mandatory renovation passports, and enhancing incentives for deep renovations are all potential areas for improvement.
  • As this review is general and does not fully reflect comprehensively German policies and especially regional variances, a review of each institution, both state (KfW, dena, BMWK) and Länder (ministries responsible for the environment), would be necessary.

In conclusion, the EPBD is vital for promoting energy-efficient and sustainable building practices across the EU. Its emphasis on deep renovations, phased renovation passports, and substantial support reflects a commitment to enhancing building energy performance and contributing to the EU’s climate and energy efficiency targets. As the directive continues to evolve, it presents opportunities for further alignment with national policies and advancing energy-efficient building practices.