The Government is committed to the rehabilitation of homes to generate employment (188,000 jobs), GDP (13,500 million euros) and reduce the carbon footprint in a sector to which 30% of CO emissions are attributedtwo totals. And it is precisely one of the ways that its Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan contemplates to attract the 140,000 million European funds and overcome the Covid crisis. The objective is to allocate 6,820 million to this chapter, whose disbursement is expected in the second quarter, and to reach 300,000 properties annually intervened in 2030.
“The requirements are still pending to be specified by the Executive through a royal decree, but, for now, the main reference on what future strategies could be would be the Practical guide for the management of aid for the energy renovation of buildings, recently published by the IDAE [Instituto para la Diversificación y Ahorro de la Energía], and in which the requirements are developed to access the aid of the Building Energy Rehabilitation Program (PREE), endowed with 300 million euros ”, explains Marta Suárez-Varela, director of the Center’s green transition research line Economic Policy of Esade (EsadeEcPol).
The installation of renewable plants and recyclable materials will also be valued.
This document establishes a minimum technical requirement to “improve the total rating of the property by at least one letter, measured on the CO scale.two with respect to the initial grade of the building ”, the aid increasing progressively the greater the improvement achieved, points out Suárez-Varela.
In addition to the fact that the actions must meet the minimum energy efficiency requirements that appear in the Technical Building Code. “It has also been leaked that a minimum of 30% will be set. In any case, the consensus in the technical field is that the required requirement is perhaps somewhat conservative; aid must be conditioned to measurable results ”, he says. The management of these funds, however, is the responsibility of the Ministry of Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda and the autonomous communities will be in charge of their processing. The IDAE is only responsible for the PREE, they clarify in the entity.
An aged park
The reality is that Spain “has a park [unos 26 millones de viviendas] very old, a problem that affects, above all, buildings built before the eighties, when there were hardly any thermal regulations. From the sixties to the eighties, many houses were built as a result of development and urban immigration, but it was an emergency and precarious construction, often carried out with poor quality materials. Over the years, structural pathologies have been repaired, but there has hardly been any recurrent maintenance and, even less, a systematic improvement of its thermal performance ”, describes Professor Felipe Pich-Aguilera, director of the sustainability area of UIC Barcelona School of Architecture.
In addition, more than 20 million were built before the first Technical Building Code (2006), and their level of thermal insulation is very low, adds Miguel Ángel Gallardo, business unit director of Rockwool Peninsular. And the rehabilitation ratio (0.12%) has been one of the lowest in Europe for years (1.5%), he points out.
From energy to materials
Hence, investments will focus on reducing energy demand, the use of renewable sources, the naturalization of roofs and making facilities more efficient, involving digital support, Pich-Aguilera details. It is necessary to intervene, above all, in the envelopes, roofs and facades of buildings for greater thermal and acoustic comfort and safety in case of fire, adds Gallardo.
But what is the current trend? “Although, initially, sustainability focused on the energy aspect and that first objective was translated at the end of the nineties into EU directives, which have ended up activating specific regulations in all countries, now the concept evolves towards a vision of materials, in two aspects: their impact on people’s health and their ability to be recycled and establish a circular economy that minimizes erosion on the territory in obtaining raw materials ”, points out Pich-Aguilera, who calculates the cost of a comprehensive rehabilitation of a home before the eighties in about € 500 / mtwo. “Maybe half will take the improvement of the envelope (insulation of facades, change of windows and solar protection),” he estimates.
The works that cut at least 30% the demand for heating and electricity will have more bonus
Gallardo cites others on the rise. “Regarding the design, the architects are concerned with the orientation, shading and use of air currents to adapt the house to natural conditions. Regarding construction systems, which are easy, quick to install and guarantee optimal performance, and with regard to materials, priority is given to recyclable, non-combustible and with a positive carbon footprint ”.
In the last two cases, it suggests the ventilated façade or SATE (exterior thermal and acoustic insulation system) and rock wool. “Renewing the envelope is the only way to drastically reduce (60% -70%) energy consumption and CO emissions.two, while operating costs fall and the level of comfort rises “, believes Mónica Herranz, secretary general of the Association of Manufacturers of Insulating Mineral Wool (Afelma).
Incentives and challenges
The Executive has advanced that the owners will receive bonuses of up to 60% in personal income tax for interventions in buildings that cut electricity consumption by at least 30% or achieve maximum efficiency (A); 20%, if they reduce the demand for heating and cooling by 7%, and 40%, if they reach 30%. In addition to paying for 100% of works that include actions on the envelope (on facades and roofs) and the installation of common boilers or photovoltaic panels.
However, experts and agents in the sector believe that the measures are insufficient. Suárez-Varela regrets the absence of fiscal and regulatory tools, such as adjusting the real estate tax (IBI) based on the energy rating or establishing passports and mandatory audits that encourage activity.
A comprehensive reform can cost more than 300,000 euros for a building of 20 apartments of 100 mtwo, calculated from Greenward Partners
And it cites France, which has established the obligation to hire companies that have a certification (established for this purpose) that guarantees that their workers have the technical knowledge to carry out renovation work effectively. “It seems to us that some guarantee of this type would be key to avoid the ineffectiveness of the funds allocated,” says Suárez-Valera.
Another question on the table is how to facilitate access to households with low incomes, since the owners have to anticipate the financing when recovering the deduction the following year in the income statement.
The Greenward Partners firm proposes the establishment of eco-bonds: a tax credit that is calculated on the amount of the investment, takes into account the savings it will generate and is transferable to any investor for five years, explains Eduardo Brunet, CEO of the company. With the sale of this instrument, the individual gets the income for the comprehensive reform (estimated at more than 300,000 euros for a building of 20 houses of 100 mtwo), defends. This mechanism has been used in Italy for five years and has mobilized some 200 million since 2020.
26 millions of homes make up the real estate park in Spain. 90% was built before the Technical Building Code and 60%, before any energy efficiency regulations existed, according to Afelma.
6,820 million Euros is the amount that the Government will allocate to this chapter through the Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan, with which it aspires to attract 140,000 million European funds.
188,000 positions The Executive anticipates that they will be created in the sector between now and 2030.
Suárez-Varela recommends establishing income criteria, increasing the bonus for those groups with lower income and setting an income limit to access aid. “If they are established in the form of deductions, these should also be reimbursable, to allow lower-income households – exempt from filing the income statement – can also obtain the amounts committed. In the case of the most vulnerable households, the economic aid could be raised through direct subsidies, to facilitate the access of these households to financing “.
Another challenge is administrative obstacles. “Licenses are subject to too long and cumbersome terms and cadences. Nor does the law that governs neighborhood communities help, which requires practically unanimous agreements for decision-making, ”warns Pich-Aguilera. Gallardo advises one-stop shop models to speed up access to aid.
The Insulating Mineral Wool Manufacturers Association (Afelma) and the Spanish Confederation of Construction Product Manufacturers Associations (Cepco) criticize the recently approved climate change law; they argue that it is contradictory and that it does not respond to the challenge of energy efficiency.
Mónica Herranz, general secretary of Afelma, is concerned that “it only takes into account the carbon footprint of the materials used in construction and rehabilitation, and not in their manufacture, transport and installation; the complete life cycle is key ”. And he insists that energy demand does not depend only on the source, but also on the quality and performance of the materials. “According to studies, reducing light consumption in European buildings can cut emissions by 460 million tons per year,” he underlines, after asking for more public-private collaboration, raising awareness, acting in industry and the Administration and adopting fiscal measures such as the Italian eco-bonds to renovate 1.2 million flats in 2025 and 2.4 million in 2030.
Miguel García, technical director of Cepco, considers that to reach the figure of 300,000 homes per year, as set by the National Integrated Energy and Climate Plan, current efforts would have to be tripled. The mobilization of capital is complicated by the crisis and the total decarbonization of the park is achieved.
Bruno Gutiérrez Cuevas, president of the Passivhaus Building Platform, emphasizes the need for the Administration to favor projects that achieve greater energy efficiency, prioritizing the reduction of energy demand, and then introducing high-performance active systems and generation renewable on-site. “A house or building rehabilitated under the Passivhaus standard, one of the most demanding in the world in energy efficient construction, guarantees the minimum energy demand and can achieve energy savings of up to 90% ”.