RE2020: To what extent will the new environmental regulations impact the construction sector?

The RE2020 has been causing a stir since its announcement in early 2020, the year in which it was supposed to be implemented. However, in the face of the anger of the sector’s professionals and the health crisis, it has already been postponed several times and will now be mandatory from January 2022. The requirements will be increasing and will depend on the sectors.

What exactly does this new regulation require? What changes from the previous thermal regulation RT2012? What are the consequences for the construction sector?

The goals of the RE2020

In France, the building sector accounts for a quarter of the country’s CO2 emissions and 44% of energy consumption. These figures need to be reduced for the government, which committed itself during the COP21 and in its Energy and Climate Law to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

The project of a new regulation for the law “Evolution du Logement, de l’Aménagement et du Numérique” (ELAN) was therefore born to replace the previous RT2012, which focused only on the thermal improvement of buildings. The RE2020 will take more criteria into account, and will add the environmental footprint of the building and its construction as well as energy production.

The objectives of the RE2020 are therefore to reduce the carbon impact of buildings and to continue the improvement of their energy performance that had already begun with RT2012. Professionals will also have to guarantee the coolness during the hot summers. Different indicators and indices will be used to measure the performance of new buildings.

The government wants to multiply positive energy buildings, which produce more energy than they consume. 

An ambitious project that obviously could not be implemented without consultation with the professionals of the sector. A consultation explaining the delay in the introduction of the law, many actors of the building and industrial denouncing the new regulations and the time of application of the latter, considered too short to adapt.

What changes for professionals?

Several new regulations will be put in place in the coming years. 

Among them, the indicator of bioclimatic needs (Bbio) is reinforced. This indicator represents the intrinsic energy needs of the building. It must be reduced by 30% for new buildings, and considered in winter as well as in summer.

Another pillar of the RE2020 is the reduction of the project’s conventional primary energy consumption (CEP), which includes heating, cooling and lighting. Cooling needs, which were not previously accounted for, will now be included and must not exceed a certain threshold. 

The government’s objective is to reduce carbon emissions as much as possible and, in the long term, to completely exclude heating exclusively with fossil fuels, such as gas.

A maximum threshold for the use of non-renewable energy will also be put in place to encourage the production and use of non-renewable energy, and to avoid an explosion of electric “toaster” heating.

Finally, the controversial Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is of great concern to the concrete, metal and mineral wool industries, as it greatly favors wood and bio-based materials. Indeed, the LCA values the capacity of materials to store carbon in buildings, while it penalizes materials that emit carbon during their production.

The government does not want to change this criterion but assures that each sector will have its place as long as CO2 emissions are reduced as specified in the regulation. The more polluting sectors will therefore have to try to find their place through innovation in order to reduce their ecological impact in the months and years to come.

The LowCarbon World exhibition, in which we will participate on June 23 and 24, will address the issues of innovation for the preservation of the environment. Do not hesitate to register for free by clicking on the link to access the interventions and events.

The benefits of the RE2020

Despite the criticisms it may receive, a number of benefits will normally result from the implementation of RE2020.

First, of course, is the reduction of the impact of buildings on the environment, particularly through the imperatives of insulation. The objective is to heat as little as possible to reduce the energy costs of the buildings as much as possible. This new high-performance insulation will also reduce noise (both outside and inside), keep the interior cool even in hot weather, and thus improve the living comfort of residents. Finally, despite a higher investment at the time of construction (from 5 to 15%), the cost of an RE2020 certified building is much less expensive in the long term thanks to energy savings and less wear and tear on equipment.

In conclusion

The professionals of the sector agree with the government on the substance of the project: the reduction of the impact of the building on the environment and the reduction of CO2 emissions. It is on the form that the problem arises and adjustments will probably still have to be made in the future so that the new regulation is applied by all without penalizing the professionals or the future beneficiaries. 

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