Level(s): the testing stage around Europe is starting
by Sebastiano Cristoforetti, CRISCON ||| Construction Sustainability Consulting
In this article, we complete the synthetic overview of Level(s), preliminary to technical insights, which we introduced in the September issue of E2B. Level(s) is the first common framework of indicators and metrics for the measurement of sustainability performance of residential and tertiary buildings, new or subject to major renovation. The predominant role of the existing buildings stock in pursuing the European (and national) goals by 2020/2030/2050 related to sustainable development is immediately understandable if we consider that 97% of buildings do not currently have a certificate of energy performance at level A, 90% do not reach level B, and 75% of buildings were built prior to 1990 (27 years ago) when only a few countries had regulations for energy efficiency in buildings.
As we have seen, Level(s) is the key instrument of the EU to promote the circular economy in the construction sector and in this respect it constitutes a reporting framework, not a new sustainability certification scheme, designed to spread awareness and technical skills for transforming the construction market towards healthier and more comfortable buildings, less impacting on the environment, with low operational costs and a higher future financial value. Developed on the basis of existing reference tools and standards, Level(s) is not a tool competing with rating systems such as LEED, BREEAM, DGNB et cetera, but it aims at spreading sustainability on a large scale with a gradual path. Levels(s) puts together elements common to European rating systems, which in their evolution can incorporate it as a core of indicators and metrics that reflect priorities for the EU’s circular economy and allow data comparability between buildings and/or portfolios, as well as between different design options. In addition, as a core framework, Level(s) does not set common performance targets for all countries, but “what” and “how” should be measured to establish a common language of sustainability. Several rating systems, where applied, may consider the same performance differently.
In a medium-term perspective, Level(s) constitutes the basis for the extensive coordinated collection of data needed for future policies on circular economy and resource efficiency and the regulatory tools that will accompany them, and therefore it pays explicit attention to the quality of the data, which it treats accordingly. In a medium-term perspective, Level(s) constitutes the foundation for the evolution of future directives on energy performance of buildings (EPBDs), but it is also a tool of major importance for the development of green public procurement and the evolution of harmonized product standards.
Being designed with the aim of widely spreading the sustainable use of natural resources in the construction sector, Level(s) wants to accompany, also with specific guidelines, different categories of recipients in the necessary path of awareness and ability growth. The framework therefore adopts three application levels with increasing complexity, accuracy and benefits: the first is the entry level to the basic evaluations, the second supports the comparison of alternative options in overall terms, and the third allows to consider different future scenarios and to narrow the gap between estimated and actual performances, while taking into account costs, risks and future opportunities.
The 9 indicators of Level(s) are conceived in relation to 6 macro-objectives around which the market will evolve: greenhouse gas emissions along the life cycle of the building, resource efficiency and circular life cycles of materials, efficient use of water resources, healthy and comfortable spaces, adaptation and resilience to climate changes, cost (and value) in the life cycle. For the performance assessment according to the indicators, it is possible to adopt levels ranging from simplified to full life cycle assessment (full LCA). As to lifecycle, Level(s) considers 4 scenario tools and 1 data collection tool along with a simplified methodology for the LCA itself. Indicators present in the thematic areas constitute a set to which further indicators can be added in the future; some of them have already been considered with the stakeholders who have collaborated to this release since 2015.
There are two employment paths for Level(s): the first, direct, by reference to the toolkit guidelines and the adoption of the reports made available by the Commission; the second, indirect, through evaluation or certification schemes, or report systems, specifically aligned. On December 4, a workshop will gather 50 organizations in Brussels (including CRISCON) for the launch of the testing stage, open to public and private entities in the next two years.