The European Parliament votes to impose a zero-energy standard on new buildings beginning in 2019As they do in the U.S., residential and commercial buildings account for an estimated 40% of energy use in Europe. Legislative initiatives to reduce or eliminate net energy consumption by buildings, however, are progressing a bit more aggressively on the other side of the Atlantic.Last week, for example, the European Parliament voted 10-1 to require that new buildings constructed after 2018 produce their own energy.The parliament also demanded that the European Commission – the European Union’s executive branch, on whose legislative proposals the parliament and the Council of the European Union vote – implement two national financing strategies by 2014, one that would offer value-added tax reductions on insulation materials, and one that would create an energy efficiency fund to support private and public investment in buildings.Reshaping an existing strategyThe MEP (Member of the European Parliament) vote actually is aimed at revising, with its stricter standards for overall efficiency, the European Union’s 2002 Energy Performance Buildings Directive, whose goals are to develop a common methodology for calculating the integrated energy performance of buildings; develop minimum standards on the energy performance of new buildings and existing buildings that are subject to major renovation; develop systems for the energy certification of new and existing buildings; and establish regular inspection of boilers and central air-conditioning systems in buildings, and an assessment of heating installations in which the boilers are more than 15 years old.The MEPs also want the EC to establish the energy-efficiency calculation methodology by 2010, and to apply minimum national energy efficiency standards to all buildings in Europe under major renovation. Existing requirements, adopted last November, apply only to buildings over 1,000 square meters.As a press release from environmental news service ENDS Europe noted, the MEP vote and recommendations were welcomed by the European Alliance of Companies for Energy Efficiency in Buildings (EuroAce), an association of 20 companies working with the EU on building efficiency issues.“This is a good day for energy efficiency … a striking endorsement from the European Parliament,” EuroACE senior advisor Andrew Warren said in press release. “All the major parties voted overwhelmingly in favor. The European Parliament is to be congratulated for enabling the Swedish Presidency to the EU to now achieve its stated goal of getting full agreement on the proposal before the end of 2009.”Eurima, an association of insulation manufacturers, offered a similarly positive response to the vote. Calling the amendment appropriately “ambitious,” the group, in a press release, praised the MEPs for tapping into the building sector’s “vast potential to deliver energy efficiency, as well as providing a strong stimulus towards economic recovery.”Two other groups focused on energy efficiency – the nonprofit European Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, based in Stockholm, and the European Renewable Energy Council – also endorsed the European Parliament vote, saying it rises to the challenge posed by climate change and will, in the long run, make EU members more economically competitive.