Which role does construction play in the climate debate? And what's happening in the field of energy regulation for construction? In this article you will find several answers to these questions.

Following an earlier article on Ecodesign, this article provides further explanation on the energy regulation for the construction sector. This regulation is followed by the Centre of Expertise of Agoria in collaboration with the Industry Building, Contracting & Technical Services Industries (BCTS). It contains more or less the follow-up of the implementation of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD), Ecodesign, Energy labelling and standardisation.

What is role of construction in the climate debate?

The construction sector plays an important role in reaching the climate objectives through the increase of energy efficiency. Buildings are responsible for approximately 40% of the energy consumption and 36% of the CO2-emissions in Europe. This also applies to Belgium: for example in Flanders the construction sector represents 30% of the total Flemisch non-ETS greenhouse gas emissions (2016). Of these emissions residential buildings represent the largest share of 76% (Flemish climate policy plan 2021-2030).

Within the energy regulation for buildings there is therefore primarily a lot of attention for residential buildings, although tertiary buildings are certainly also taken into consideration. The efforts within the building sector so far seem to lead to results: between 2005 and 2014 there was an average reduction of 1,8% in final energy use noticeable within the residential sector. In Flanders an energy efficiency increase of almost 10% was realised between 2007 and 2016 in the residential sector (see table 1). Considering the relatively low rate of renovation of 0,4-1,2% a year in Europe, there seems to still be unused potential within the existing (residential) buildings.

Final use (energetic) (GWh)






2030 BAU








Tertiairy (incl. non-residential, non-industrial and waste, excl. agriculture)







Industry (energetic)





















Table 1: Overview Flemish energy use per sector (Source: Flemish energy plan 2021-2030)

What does energy regulation for construction mean for Agoria?

The follow-up of the energy regulation specifically for buildings consists more or less of 3 domains within Agoria:

  • The implementation of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD),
  • ecodesign and energy labelling
  • standardisation (the EPBD-norms).

The domains find their origin in the European legislation, where they contribute to priority 3 of the ten priorities that were defined by the European Commission in 2014 for the period of 2015-2019. Priority 3 stands for 'Energy union and climate - Making energy more secure, affordable and sustainable'.

The priorities are set by the President of the European Commission upon arrival in cooperation with the European Council and the European Parliament. The priorities then form the basis for the composition of the annual Work Programme and implementation. Currently Jean-Claude Juncker is the President of the European Commission for the period of 2015-2019. After the European elections of the 23rd till 26th of May 2019 the newly chosen Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) with elect a new President for the European Commission. This President will together with the European Council compose a new political leadership team for the European Commission (the Commissioners) and define the priorities for the next period.

Image 1: Simplified display of the three domains within the energy landscape for construction(Source: Agoria)

How do the three 'energy-construction' domains relate to the climate objectives?

The policy initiatives in these domains aim to contribute to the same goal: to reduce the CO2-emissions in Europe through the increase of energy efficiency (reduction of energy consumption). Another way through which Europe uses energy to reduce CO2-emissions is for example the increase of the share of renewable energy (use of alternative energy resources).

For the European energy efficiency objectives of 2030 the European Commision, Council and Parliament agreed on the 14th of June 2018 to an increase of 32,5%. This is a binding target and includes a possibility for upward adjustment until 2023. In comparison; the European 2020 objectives for energy efficiency were set to 20% relative to the situation of 1990. Concretely this comes down to an energy consumption objective of 1086 ton oil-equivalent. In 2015 the European energy consumption was 1084 ton oil-equivalent. In 2030 the adjusted energy efficiency objectives have to eventually lead to an emission reduction of at least 40%.

In 2016 the current European Commission proposed a package of existing energy efficiency Directives and Regulations for revision on their effectiveness and adjustments where necessary in order to realise the set objectives; this action was presented under the name 'Clean Energy Package'. The EPBD was the first revised Directive from this package that was approved in 2018. 

More information on the energy efficiency objectives and results can be found here.

Who is responsible for policy implementation within the 'energy-construction' domains?

The responsibility for the execution of the policies lies depending on the Directive or Regulation on the European or Member State level. In the case of the EPBD Europe states through the Directive that Member States have to set a number of minimal requirements to new buildings and major energy renovations, have a policy on energy performance certification for existing buildings and draft a long-term renovation strategy among a number of other requirements.

The Member States are then responsible to take care that their policies are being adjusted to meet these European requirements. In addition they have to report to Europe on the way in which the requirements have been transposed. For the Ecodesign and Energy labelling regulations the implementation is organised differently; the European product regulation is directly applicable on products that are placed on the European market. The responsibility to enforce these product regulations lies with the Member State.

Normalisation on the other hand aims to define 'best practices'. These 'best practices' are developed via cooperation between different stakeholders, such as government and industry. Standards have no regulatory function and their applicability is therefore on a voluntary basis. It has been laid down that standards in the European member states must not deviate from the European established standards. The coordination of the development of standards in the area of EPBD lies on the global level with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), on European level with the European Standardisation Committee (CEN) and the International Electrotechnical Committee (IEC) and in Belgium with the Bureau for Normalisation (NBN) and the Belgian Electrotechnical Committee (BEC).

What are the differences between the 3 'energy-construction' domains?

Although the 3 domains contribute to the same goal, the way in which they work is different (see table 2 for a description of the differences):

  • Application: the domains are different in their application areas, which are interlinked; for example products are applied in buildings and standards can include references to ecodesign and energy labelling requirements. The regulations and standards can in principle not be contradictory to each other.
  • Legal basis: this refers to the way in which the (mandatory) policies are implemented. For a number of Directives the authority for implementation lies directly with the European Commission. Other Directives include requirements for Member States to transpose in their regulations.
  • Authority: In Belgium the authority for the execution of the regulation is spread among multiple governments: the federal government, the Flemish regional and communal government, the governments of the Walloon and Brussels regions, the French communal government and the government of the German community. The authorised governmental level varies depending on the domain.
  • Revision: Both the regulations and the standards are regularly revised to see whether they should be adjusted in function of innovations and realised results. The way in which the updating of Regulation is organised differs per domain. For Directives and Regulations the moment of revision is a political decision. In case it is not specified in the Regulation itself, one of the political actors needs to take the initiative. Within standardisation there is an agreement on a fixed periodical revision.
  • Implementation: The different levels in which the domains function have consequences for the validity of the regulation; is the regulation only valid in one of the regions, in the whole of Belgium or in the whole of Europe? This usually takes historically grown borders into account instead of perhaps more logical scientifically-based climate zones.



Implementation EPBD

Ecodesign & Energy labelling

EPBD standards





Legal basis

Member States are obliged to integrate the European requirements in their national legislation.

European regulation is directly applicable to products placed on the European market.

Not applicable

Authority (BE)

Flemish, Brussels and Walloon region

Federal government (market surveillance)

Bureau for Normalisation (NBN) supported by sector operators (Agoria a.o.)


Last EPBD revision was approved in 2018. Deadline for transposition is 10.3.2020.

Last versions 'general framework' Ecodesign (2009) and Energy labelling (2017).

Deadline revision product regulations is included in the regulatory texts.

Revision every 5 years through 'systematic review'


Calculation methodology is for largely the same in the 3 regions.

Requirements for residential and non-residential buildings are different per region.

The energy efficiency and energy labelling requirements are the same througout Europa

The content of the European standards is in principle the same throughout Europe.

Member States (CEN-CENELEC members) can add a national Annex to these European standards to provide for necessary adjustments to the local context.

 Table 2: Overview characteristics 3 energy domains for the construction sector in Belgium (Source: Agoria)

How does the European regulation translate to the Belgian context?

Despite the different approaches of the three energy domains, they all affect the energy performance regulation (EPB) and the energy performance certificate (EPC) in some way. The relation between the different domains is pictured in image 2. Within the energy regulation a distinction is made between the function of a building (residential vs. non-residential) and the existing policy procedures (new vs. existing buildings).

Image 2: General principle transposition energy policy domains in Belgium (Source: Agoria)

Energy performance regulation (EPB)

For new buildings and major energy renovations it is necessary to apply for a permit prior to starting construction. Within the permit application procedure a distinction can be made between two phases: the phase of design and delivery. At the moment of design the EPB has the function of indicating how the design performs in the field of energy efficiency and how this can be optimised. In contrary to existing buildings it can start from a 'clean slate' and therefore focus on optimisation.

Within the second phase the level to which the realised building actually meets the envisioned energy performance in the design phase is reviewed. The energy performance report that must be delivered with the permit is also known as the 'EPB-declaration (EPB)'. The EPB is the regional transposition of the EPBD-requirements for having minimum requirements of the energy performance of new buildings and major energy renovations. The three Belgian regions cooperate on the design of the methodology, which is therefore largely the same throughout Belgium, but have each specified their own minimum requirements.

Energy performance certificate (EPC)

For existing buildings the opportunity for 'policy intervention' lies with the moment of sale or lease when legal documents need to be drafted. The sale or lease does not necessarily included a design, so therefore an evaluation of the energetic state of the dwelling is executed. This evaluation is better known as the energy performance certificate (EPC). The EPC is the Flemish transposition to EPBD requirement to have a certification programme. In Wallonia this is known as "la certification PEB'' and in Brussels as the 'EPB-certificate'. Currently the possibility to add 'renovation advice' to the EPC as part of a building renovation passport is under review. These developments are part of the long-term renovation strategy per Member State (in Flanders also known as the Renovation pact and in Wallonia as the Stratégie wallone de renovation).

Ecodesign and energy labelling

To assess the energy performance of a building it is often necessary to know the product data of applied technologies, such as heating, cooling, lighting, windows, doors and ventilation. Ecodesign and energy labelling partly provide a potential source for this data through their minimum energy and information requirements. This created a regular exchange between the two domains; the EPB calculation methodology is regularly updated based on the entry data of the set requirements in the ecodesign regulation. Also, the way in which the energy labelling database (EPREL) could be used as a source of data for entering parameters for buildings technologies in the EPB is currently under review.

For more information on Ecodesign and Energy labelling regulation, click here.

EPBD standards

The EPBD standards are the result of an European initiative to come with the involved stakeholders to a standardised methodology for the design of the EPB (and EPC) calculation methodology. There are a number of standards that provide a general framework (CEN/TC371) and a number of standards that target a specific part of the building; the facade (CEN/TC89), ventilation (CEN/TC156), lighting (CEN/TC169), heating and cooling (CEN/TC228) and building automation and control systems (CEN/TC247). Considering that the authority for shaping the EPB regulation lies with Member States, it is likely that design-wise the different national methodologies will show some overlap; the variety in the building technologies and climate challenges is often strongly climate-dependent. To unite the European knowledge and experience on the design of the EPB methodology, it was decided to create a number of EPBD standards to support the implementation of the EPBD. Most standards were finalised in 2017, but are applied on an ad-hoc basis.

For more information on standardisation and the EPBD standards, click here.

For more information on the dossiers followed-up by Agoria within the energy regulation for construction including links to Agoria's list of actions, click here (NL) or here (FR) (available in Dutch and French).