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Calls increase for EU and national policy on energy-efficient renovations to improve fire safety

27 March 2021

MEP MIAPETRA Kumpula-Natri from Finland has joined Fire Safe Europe in asking the European Union (EU) and national policymakers to ensure that the “surge of energy-efficient renovations” in the EU also improves fire safety.

Speaking as part of a webinar organised jointly with Fire Safe Europe and entitled ‘Energy-Efficient and Fire Safe Renovations under the EU Green Deal’, Ms Kumpula-Natri said that renovations are an opportunity to capitalise on investments by simultaneously increasing energy efficiency and fire safety. This will improve people’s well-being and overall safety.

“Renovation is a win-win if we play our cards right,” asserted Kumpula-Natri. “It can cut emissions, create jobs and can improve healthy and safe housing.”

Other expert speakers who participated in the event also emphasised the need for an holistic approach towards renovations. Ms Kadri Simson (Commissioner for Energy) stated: “Building renovation through the Renovation Wave offers a big opportunity to upgrade building standards in terms of fire safety, indoor air quality, accessibility and energy efficiency.”

Dr Stephen Richardson, director of the Europe Regional Network at the World Green Building Council, commented: “The Renovation Wave needs to be local, convene different stakeholders, be driven by regulations and guided by good data. Those four points are critical.”

Increasing energy efficiency sometimes means introducing new technologies, materials or systems in a building for achieving a more sustainable future. Nonetheless, the potential of these solutions must be maximised by making them safe from fire. Dr Amaya Osacar, chair of the Building Sustainability Advisory Panel of the European Fire Safety Community, observed: “Their fire safety performance may not be well understood. It’s very important to ensure that suitable schemes to assess the fire risk of these technologies are in place.”

Fire performance

It’s important that efforts designed to maximise energy efficiency don’t impact negatively on a given building’s fire performance. There’s a feeling that the effort of Croatia – outlined on the webinar by Ms Irena Križ Šelendić of the Ministry of Construction and Physical Planning – when it comes to energy-efficient and fire-safe renovation could be replicated.

Šelendić said: “The Long-Term Renovation Strategy defines comprehensive renovation as a combination of optimal measures for improving the current condition of buildings with measures aimed at enhancing fire protection, thereby ensuring a healthy indoor environment.”

In 2018, the revised Energy Performance of Buildings Directive ensured promising improvements in EU regulation by including two articles encouraging EU Member States to consider fire safety in buildings undergoing major renovations as well as in their long-term renovation strategies.

The EU Green Deal should go even further. Its initiatives on buildings, such as the Renovation Wave or the strict implementation of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, aim to make buildings more sustainable and contribute towards the EU’s energy efficiency and climate objectives. The inclusion of fire safety would participate in achieving the climate objectives for 2050.