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2020 Environmental Regulations

In 2020, a new environmental regulation for new buildings comes into force: the RE2020. Provided for by the ELAN law (law for the evolution of housing, development and digital), it follows several previous thermal regulations that set requirements on the construction of buildings. The first version of these thermal regulations was implemented in 1974, with the latest being RT2012.

 

In France, the building sector (residential and tertiary) is the largest consumer of energy. It represents 44% of energy consumption and nearly 25% of CO2 emissions. It is therefore a major lever to be taken into account in policies to combat climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

 

The various thermal and environmental regulations set requirements on the building industry, particularly in terms of design and energy consumption.  The thermal regulation, RT2012, which has been implemented since the end of 2011, acts along 3 axes:

  • The bioclimatic need of housing: a coefficient measures the performance of the building in terms of heating, cooling and lighting needs without taking into account the energy systems in place in the housing.

  • Summer comfort: in non-air-conditioned buildings, a threshold temperature Tic must not be exceeded during five consecutive hot days.

  • Primary energy consumption: a maximum energy consumption Cepmax is set. It concerns heating, cooling, lighting, domestic hot water production and auxiliary devices (pumps and fans).

 

The RE2020 is the result of a consultation process launched in 2019, bringing together all the players in the construction industry, enabling the identification of actionable levers that can be implemented. Compared to the RT2012, the RE2020 goes further in its energy performance requirements and introduces the notion of carbon impact more precisely.

The RE2020 requirements

The RE2020 applies to all building permits submitted from January 1, 2022, whether these are for single-family homes, multi-family homes or offices. Specific tertiary buildings will be affected by the regulation at a later stage. It acts on all the decarbonation levers and counts on a gradual transformation of the sector (in terms of energy solutions, construction techniques, etc.). The stated objective is to reduce the environmental impact of the building sector by 30%.

 

Improvement of the energy performance of buildings

The indicator of bioclimatic need Bbio, already defined in RT2012, is strengthened (with a maximum threshold value reduced by 30%). The objective is to reduce the consumption of buildings by focusing on insulation, regardless of the heating system installed. The consumption of low-carbon energy sources is also strongly encouraged.

Building Life Cycle Assessment

The environmental impact of new buildings is examined by measuring greenhouse gas emissions throughout their life cycle. The analysis is carried out from the construction phase to the end of life (over a period of 50 years), including the operating phase. The parameters observed include construction materials, equipment, heating, air conditioning, lighting, etc. The objective is to encourage eco-design in the choice of materials and equipment and to give preference to bio-based materials. This life cycle analysis is exclusive to the RE2020 and did not appear in the previous thermal regulations.

 

Summer comfort

The requirement related to summer comfort is improved compared to RT2012 to better respond to climate change. The objective is a better adaptation of buildings to climatic conditions, and in particular to periods of heat wave whose frequency and intensity should increase. Passive air conditioning solutions are encouraged by the RE2020.

The RE2020, a regulatory framework unfavorable to gas.

The environmental impact requirements of the RE2020, encourages the reduction of the use of fossil fuels and the gradual withdrawal of gas.

 

For individual houses, 100% natural gas heating systems are now prohibited. However, hybrid systems such as the hybrid heat pump (combining an electric heat pump and a high-performance gas boiler) or other solutions combining gas and renewable energies (solar-gas, wood-gas, etc.) are possible, as long as the carbon thresholds are respected. For collective housing, gas is still authorized until 2024. Beyond this deadline, the same constraints as for individual houses will apply.

 

The RE2020 therefore has a strong impact on the gas sector, since up to now an average of 35,000 new housing units have been connected to the gas network each year, and 70% of newly built collective housing units are heated with gas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nevertheless, a spectrum of actions is possible for the gas sector players: developing the renewable gas sector. If it is not among the prioritized low-carbon solutions to be developed identified by the Ministry, it is not excluded.

Distribution of housing in 2020 by type of heating

(Source : Ministry of Ecological Transition, 2021)

Housing heated with natural gas

(Source : Ministry of Ecological Transition, 2021)