EU publishes 'Level(s)' framework for sustainable building performance

EU publishes ‘Level(s)’ framework for sustainable building performance

To help develop a common language around ‘sustainable’ building’ the European Commission has been consulting with the construction industry to develop agreed performance indicators to drive low carbon construction and help transform the building sector.

Known as “Level(s)” it is the world’s first region-wide sustainable building reporting tool. Level(s) has high ambitions, aiming to transform the European building market from its current role as a major contributor to climate change, to one which has more positive impacts on both the environment and society.

Level(s) is the result of a broad consultation with industry and the public sector, and focuses on performance indicators across areas such as greenhouse gas emissions, resource and water efficiency as well as health and comfort.

It is a voluntary reporting framework that uses existing standards and provides a common EU approach to the assessment of environmental performance in the built environment.

Within the Level(s) framework, each indicator is designed to link the individual building’s impact with the priorities for sustainability at the European level. This focuses the Level(s) user on a manageable number of essential concepts and indicators at building level that contribute to achieving EU and Member State environmental policy goals.

The first two technical guidance reports were released during World Green Building Week . 

The first technical report provides an introduction to Level(s) and how it works. The second technical report provides detailed guidance on how to make performance assessments using Level(s).

They have been developed by the European Commission in close collaboration with key players such as Green Building Councils, businesses such as Skanska and Saint-Gobain, and the Sustainable Building Alliance.

Level(s) is described as an “open source assessment framework” – in simpler terms, a tool, which can be used by those involved in buildings (such as planners, architects, developers and occupiers) to measure the sustainability performance of them.  

What makes Level(s) different is that for the first time it provides a framework for measurement that goes beyond just energy, which, up until now, has been used as the main indicator of sustainable performance.  Critically, Level(s) factors in other key aspects of building performance such as greenhouse gas emissions, efficient use of water resources, health and wellbeing, adaptation and resilience to climate change, and cost and value.

Level(s) promotes circular thinking – encouraging its users to think about the whole life cycle of a building – from the manufacturing of the products and materials used to construct it, the energy used to operate it, through to its deconstruction and the eventual re-use and recycling of those materials.

It will enable governments of all sizes across Europe to incorporate the concept of the circular economy into their own national plans and strategies, and ensure these are aligned with European priorities and efforts to tackle climate change.

Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, said: “Level(s) can help us develop an environment built sustainably across Europe and support our transition to the circular economy. We are releasing this framework for the sector during World Green Building Week demonstrating Europe’s global leadership. It marks an important step towards a more resource-efficient and competitive construction sector in Europe.”

James Drinkwater, Director of the World Green Building Council’s Europe Regional Network, said: “This is a clear signal to the market that sustainable building practice is shifting from niche to norm. Having a common goal to deliver nearly zero-energy buildings across Europe galvanised industry-wide action, and now having a common language around ‘sustainable’ building helps us begin to really transform mainstream practice.”    

The test phase for Level(s) is now being launched and will run until 2019. All building projects are invited to learn more about it and pilot the new tool.

The Commission will host a pilot workshop for organisations interested in testing Level(s) in Brussels on 4 December 2017.

Further information