EU watch The European commission wants a 20% reduction in carbon emissions by 2020. To meet this goal, a variety of policies and guidelines are due this year.

Only a month into 2007 and already it’s looking like a busy year in Brussels for the built environment. January saw the publication of the European commission’s policy package on energy, which calls for governments to commit to a 20% reduction in emissions by 2020, demonstrating that this goal is technically and economically viable.

As well as noting specific national energy policies for social housing, the commission says energy savings of 30% are possible in residential and commercial buildings.

In reducing energy consumption, buildings have been pinpointed as having high energy-saving potential. The suggestions include minimum performance requirements for buildings, developing low-energy houses and tackling poor conditions of social and high-rise housing in the central and eastern member countries. It also suggests further implementation of the directive that requires energy certificates whenever a building is sold or rented out. So far, only Denmark and Germany have brought that into national law.

The commission is also working on a technique for estimating the lifetime costs of owning buildings, expected by April. The aim is to extend the principles of life-cycle costs into the public procurement regime.

In reducing energy consumption, buildings have been pinpointed as having high energy-saving potential

There will also be more on waste management. Proposals include simplifying legislation, improving the way we use resources, creating mandatory prevention programmes and improving the recycling market by setting environmental standards for conditions under which certain leftover materials are not considered as waste if they are sent for recycling.

A range of measures that affect the built environment are likely to appear from less familiar sources within the commission, as the issue of sustainability continues to dominate. The soil framework directive, for example, defines soil as a non-renewable resource, rapidly degrading in many places because of human activity and urban development. One measure would be to require governments to limit the effects of soil sealing, for instance by rehabilitating brownfield sites.

The proposals would require an inventory and national strategy for remediation of contaminated sites and soil-status reports not unlike the energy performance certificates. More will be known about this by the middle of the year.

This is a brief view of what could happen but with all this, and the seven-year regional and research funding periods having just started, there will be plenty to do this year.