The Green Homes Directive: deadlines, requirements and news

salonemilano, The Forest Biome by Paul Milinski

The Forest Biome by Paul Milinski

The agreement to reduce the environmental impact of the European building stock has been made effective. Step by step, here’s what will change, depending on the properties and possible cases 

The “Green Homes Directive”, aka Directive (EU) 2024/1275 of the European Parliament, the accord to reduce the environmental impact of Europe’s building stock, now comes into effect. This means that the goal will be to decarbonise Europe’s building stock by 2050, step by step, depending on the type of property and through detailed renovation plans to be devised by the member countries by 31 December 2025. 

Initial observations 

Within the general framework of the directive, the European Union’s initial observations point out that buildings are responsible for 40% of the EU’s energy consumption and 36% of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions, while 75% of European buildings are currently energy inefficient. It states that natural gas is the main source of heating for buildings, followed by oil and coal. Therefore reducing energy consumption is considered an essential measure to cutting greenhouse gas emissions and energy poverty in the Union. The directive then runs through the data: 42% of the energy consumed in 2021 was used in buildings; more than a third of energy-related emissions come from buildings; Around 80% of the energy consumed by households is used for heating, cooling and producing hot water. It should also be noted that 85% of buildings in the member states were built before 2000. Of these, 75% have a poor energy performance. Buildings, the directive continues, are responsible for greenhouse gas emissions before, during and after their useful life. 

Zero emissions by 2050 

The goals of the Green Homes Directive are ambitious. Compared to 2020, it aims at a 16% reduction of the energy consumption of existing residential buildings by 2030 and a 20-22% reduction by 2035. Non-residential buildings will have to reduce their average energy consumption by 16% by 2030 and by 26% by 2033. The priority for action, the regulations repeatedly stress, has to be laid on buildings with the worst energy performance, while in the case of new buildings, the roadmap requires member states to ensure that they have zero-emissions from 2028. Then from 2030 this will apply to all new buildings, hence also private ones.
To ensure these targets are achieved, states are required to take a number of measures to improve energy efficiency, such as setting minimum energy performance requirements for new or renovated buildings. Or, as we will see, phasing out fossil fuels in the heating and cooling of buildings, as well as requiring regular maintenance and inspection of these systems by qualified personnel, linking inspections with certifications. It also calls for policies and measures relating to the installation of adequate solar systems on all buildings to be included in the national renovation plans. 

Green renovations 

With the Green Homes Directive, an important novelty is renovations. For the most important ones, by 29 May 2026, a system of (optional) renovation passports will be introduced, described as “a tailored roadmap for the deep renovation of a specific building in a maximum number of steps that will significantly improve its energy performance”. They can be drawn up and issued at the same time as the energy performance certificate – but since they are optional, it will always be possible to obtain the energy performance certificate without a renovation passport. Most of the renovations will have to affect the 43% of the most energy-intensive building stock, which means that it will not be enough to introduce new “green” buildings to improve the national average. 

Obligations and deadlines  

As we have already seen, new public buildings will have to be zero-emission as early as 2028, while existing ones will have until 2050, albeit with intermediate performance targets as early as 2030. All new public and non-residential buildings with a usable floor area of more than 250 square meters must have solar systems installed by 31 December 2026. By 2029, all new residential buildings and new covered parking spaces adjacent to buildings will have to be equipped with photovoltaic systems. Conversely, from 2025 boilers that run only on natural gas will no longer be eligible for incentives, with the aim of eliminating them completely by 2040. On the other hand, the plan does envision the possibility of providing incentives for the installation of hybrid plants “with a considerable share of renewable energy, such as the combination of a boiler with a solar thermal system”. 
Not all buildings are covered by the Directive. For example, it excludes places of worship, second homes used for less than four months a year, detached buildings with a floorspace of less than 50 square meters, buildings of the armed forces (but not housing and offices). Exemptions are provided for agricultural buildings and those of outstanding architectural or historical value. 
So given the framework outlined so far, to understand the precise obligations for private individuals, we will have to wait for the definition of national plans and minimum energy performance standards.

APE: coming innovations 

The latest major innovation in the Green Homes Directive concerns EPCs (Energy Performance Certificates), documents that indicate the value of a building’s energy performance. The directive introduces a common scale of energy performance classes and a common model to ensure certificates are comparable across Europe. The common scale will range from A to G (but a class A0 has also been introduced). The letter A will apply to zero-emission buildings, while class G will comprise buildings with the worst performance of the national building stock at the time when the scale is introduced. In addition, as of 29 May 2026, the EPC will have to indicate information such as energy performance class, annual primary and final energy consumption, the percentage of renewable energy produced in relation to energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions and, if available, also the value of the building’s life-cycle global warming potential. The certificate will also contain the energy requirements, the ability to adjust energy consumption and the efficiency of the heat distribution system within the building.