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An EU Action Plan on Circular Economy

What difference will it make for public, cooperative and social housing?

Brussels, 18 March 2020 | Published in Energy, Economy, Social

On Tuesday 10th March, the European Commission published a new Action Plan on Circular Economy as part of the EU Green Deal. Several elements are relevant for building owners:

  • A new comprehensive Strategy for a Sustainable Built Environment will be published in 2021 and will contain 
    • the revision of the Construction Product Regulation including the possible introduction of recycled content requirements for certain construction products, taking into account their safety and functionality
    • a revision of material recovery targets set in EU legislation for construction and demolition waste and its material-specific fractions
    • a possible revision of the public procurement rules, in order to include requirements to use a green public procurement tools and life-cycle costing/assessment
  • Waste legislation will be reinforced:
    • the Commission will put forward waste reduction targets for specific streams as part of a broader set of measures on waste prevention in the context of a review of Directive 2008/98/EC
    • The Commission will also enhance the implementation of the recently adopted requirements for extended producer responsibility schemes
  • The European Commission will further support EU wide market for secondary raw materials

Housing Europe will engage with the European Commission throughout the year to ensure that the announced strategy and potential new legislation will be fit for purpose. Social, cooperative and public housing sector, which are at the end of the construction/renovation supply chain, are willing to contribute to a more sustainable way to build/renovate, use and demolish buildings but need the adequate framework. For instance, here are some of the measures that are needed:

  • Procurement for low carbon construction and insulation materials will only work with a parrallel support to contractors to develop alternatives to high cabron content products. This can be achieved through engaging with them in innovation partnerships or alternative forms of cooperation between procuring entities and contractors but the European Commission should further incentivize member states to support those procuring methods.
  • The creation of local supply chains for the re-use of building materials coming from the demolition is an important step towards more circular practices. It has to be promoted through urban planning (by mixing the different urban functions), logistics (by enabling easier recovery of materials) and by new business models involving the creation of material banks for new construction. This later aspect encompasses technical and insurance-wise challenges that have to be overcome.
  • Setting up ecosystems for reversible/circular buildings design is essential for the development of ready to use architectural concepts. One way to increase the demand for those circular design concepts is a EU catalogue of applicable circular concepts for new construction and renovation of buildings, with a secial focus on affordable solutions.
  • Eventually, funding that will help « to go the extra-mile » in renovation and new construction programmes will be necessary. New construction or renovation programmes based on circular principles are in short term more costly than the business as usual approach. However gradually, new business models and new techniques will arise and allow for a cost-effective approach. EIB, European Structrural Funds and EU R&D programmes have to be mobilised to support the shift towards a circular buit environment.

Housing Europe is involved in European projects, such as Houseful and Drive Zero, whose aims is to promote new business models and new building concepts. We will constantly integrate the findings and results of the projects in our advocacy work and make sure they improve the policy debate.