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Sustainable buildings in Europe

By : Minna Sunikka, Geert Vijverberg

In the European Union buildings are responsible for more than 40% of the total energy consumption, 30% of the CO2 emissions, and the construction sector is estimated to generate approximately 40% of all man-made waste (Bourdeau, 1999). This article focuses on the sustainability of buildings. The housing sector contributes considerably to environmental problems. For instance in the Netherlands 70.000 new houses are built every year and four billion Euros are spent on renovation and maintenance of their housing stock. Sustainable housing offers opportunities to achieve environmental benefits (Waals & al., 2000). The Kyoto Protocol increases the pressure to reduce energy consumption and the carbon dioxide emissions of the housing sector. The nature of environmental problems is global, and therefore, developments should be made in co-operation with others. This article attempts to present a state-of-the-art overview of government policies for sustainable buildings and environmental building regulations in five European countries. It suggests that in order to meet the Kyoto targets governments should clearly lead and steer the progress of the sustainable buildings, instead of leaving its implementation to market forces. Cost ineffective investments should be compensated with the combination of legislation and subsidies. This article is based on research conducted as one of the key projects called the Ecological City within the framework of the Interdisciplinary Research Centre, at the Delft University of Technology.

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