EUROPE - The European Commission has revealed draft proposals for an EU-wide Energy and Water Performance of Buildings Directive this week in a bid to encourage sustainability and more energy efficiency in buildings across Europe, but experts maintain the EC still has a long way to go before achieving a common standard among all EU member states.

Speaking at the Barcelona Meeting Point, a panel of real estate experts discussed ways in which the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) - part of European legislation that all member states must adopt and which was brought about because of the need to make buildings more energy efficient - would further promote sustainability in buildings and provide opportunities for investors.

From 1 October 2008 buildings across all sectors of the real estate sector, including rented homes and all commercial properties, are required to have an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) when they are bought, sold or leased to tenants.

This has led each member state to develop their own EPC though this is also making it difficult for investors to compare energy efficiency standards between European countries, according to Michael MacBrien, director general for the European Property Federation.

He claimed there is still a need for "one single integrated environmental performance of buildings certificate" as each EU member state is currently allowed to set its own standards as long as they fulfil the terms of existing EC directives.

MacBrien noted work is now underway to develop an all-encompassing "eco label" for buildings that might include "social sustainability" as a way of creating and protecting environmental, social and cultural values.

Martin Elsberger, policy officer for the European Commission's Directorate-General for Energy and Transport in Brussels, argued during the panel session a full harmonisation of certificates across Europe was "unrealistic" and "wishful thinking", adding it would take decades to establish because of the various parameters used to calculate the certificate.

"Behind the certification there are a huge amount of calculations and assumptions required in each country, and they are made based on local or regional conditions with regard to outdoor climate and with regard to a hundred other aspects which have to be taken into account when laying down a national level of building codes," said Elsberger.

That said, the EPBD has proposed a benchmarking approach could be introduced which might help stimulate harmonisation of the minimum level of energy performance requirements across Europe.

One of the key issues raised by panel members was the need to make energy efficiency systems more "cost-effective" and understandable to the public.

Eduardo Maldonado, coordinator for the European Concerted Action for Transposition of the EPBD, said: "The certificates must have an added value for consumers and it is the governments' job to inform people that it is at their fingertips. We need campaigns and we need to inform the population."

According to Maldonado, energy dependence could be 70% imported from outside the EU by 2030 unless measures are taken.

Member states' plans to revise their building regulations and set up certification schemes have been delayed because of a lack of consensus between technical communities when choosing cost-effective solutions and national requirements and a lack of guidance from the EPBD.

"[EPBD] sets goals but then lets each country decide how to reach these goals," said Maldonado.

Despite the delays, most EU member states have been trying to find ways of limiting the cooling and heating demands of their buildings and plan to focus on integrating renewable materials into their properties.

All existing air-conditioning systems over 250 kW must have had their first inspection by 4 January 2009.

David Lorenz, managing director for AAAcon in Leipzig insisted sustainability in property valuation should be a key focus in the debate and called for less complex and more transparent valuation processes.

" Superior building performance adds values in many ways," said Lorenz.

The final EPBD draft is due to be published before the end of 2008.

If you have any comments you would like to add to this or any other story, contact Poppy Sketchley on + 44 (0)20 7261 4629 or email