March 2016


Communication on a EU Heating & Cooling Strategy

On 16 February, the EU Commission published a Communication presenting a new EU Strategy on Heating and Cooling, addressing the energy used for heating and cooling in buildings and industry. ACE welcomes the equal emphasis on sustainable heating and cooling but has concerns about the Commission’s assumption that the solution to this challenge may be the wide-spread application of ‘smart’ (electronic) controls to heating and cooling systems.

The ACE believes that the Commission does not take sufficiently into consideration the feedback from building performance evaluations, which demonstrate that electronic controls are one of the greatest risks of excessive energy consumption and are often the source of poor indoor environmental quality. Such studies show that projected energy efficiency savings from automated mechanical solutions rarely achieve predicted levels and require significant expertise to be implemented and maintained.

ACE advocates greater recognition of the architectural determinants of building performance and their contribution to long-term building resilience. The Communication refers to ‘architects’ in the context of incorporating advanced design and smart technologies into buildings. This is a reference only to the application of insulation & lighting measures – whereas research shows that the configuration and materiality of buildings has a formidable impact on the perceived comfort and well-being of occupants. ACE is preparing a detailed response to the Communication, for discussion at its next General Assembly.


European Commission takes action to open up international procurement markets

In January, the EU Commission presented a revised proposal for an International Procurement Instrument - a tool to promote open access to public procurement markets around the world. While the EU is an open economy, many of the EU's major trading partners apply restrictive practices which discriminate against EU businesses. Opening up non-EU markets for European companies would lead to public savings, creating a win-win situation for jobs and growth in the EU and the tender country in question. This new tool is in line with the ACE position, which advocates for strict reciprocity in international procurement. Read the full press release.

DG GROW publishes Action Lines for Liberal Professions

Recognising the entrepreneurial potential of liberal professions, in 2013 the EU Commission established a Working Group of representatives of national and European associations of Liberal Professions (including ACE) with a view to preparing recommendations in terms of policies. In January, the Commission issued the conclusions of the Working Group, addressing notably issues relating to entrepreneurship education, access to markets, reduction of administrative burdens, access to finance as well as an increased participation of liberal professionals in EU programmes and projects. Download the report.


BIM EU Task Group 


The EU Commission has funded a new Europe-wide BIM alignment project. The project will be funded by the EU Commission and will be the main focus of the existing EU BIM Task Group.

The group consists of a 40 representatives of public sector client organisations, policy units and national task groups for Austria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Slovakia, Sweden and UK, an advisory “general assembly” and a smaller steering group. The overall group is chaired by Adam Matthews, the representative of the UK BIM Task Group on international affairs, and UK representatives are taking a leading role in the alignment project.

Members of the EU BIM Task Group have committed to producing an “EU BIM Handbook”, a guide to using BIM in public sector projects that could help to create a consistent approach across the EU. It was suggested that the handbook would look at three main areas: procurement practices up to tendering; technical standards and BIM principles; and education and skills development. It will be developed via a series of workshops throughout 2016 to collate best practice and identify a common way of working.

Mr Matthew added that the EU BIM Group will have additional targets. “The handbook is the tangible outcome, but it’s also about the communication and information sharing. We want to attend and participate in EU events, where we want to promote our vision. It’s very important that we communicate and signal our intentions to the industry.” 

ACE is in contact with the EU BIM Task Group and more collaboration is expected in the next months.


Visit the EU BIM Task Group Website


Parliament’s recommendations to the Commission on the negotiations for the TiSA

On 3 February, MEPs approved Parliament's position on the Trade in Services International Agreement (TiSA), which is currently being negotiated by the EU and 22 World Trade Organisation partners. The Parliament notably calls on the Commission to “strive to create a framework for the mutual recognition of training, academic levels and professional qualifications, in particular in the architectural, accounting and legal sectors, while ensuring the competence of the supplier and thus the quality of the services provided in line with the EU's Professional Qualifications Directives, and while avoiding the automatic and quantitative recognition of university degrees”.


Infringement procedure in the area of regulated professions

On 25 February, the EU Commission took further steps in its infringement procedures against Austria, Cyprus and Germany in the area of regulated professions. Despite the exchanges held with the Member States, the Commission continues to consider that their national rules include excessive and unjustified obstacles and that requirements imposed on architects run counter to the Services Directive. The Commission’s action in Austria concerns legal form, shareholding requirements and restrictions on multidisciplinary companies. In Cyprus, it focuses on shareholding requirements for all engineering professions, including architects. In Germany, it is about minimum and maximum tariffs for architects and engineers. The Commission's request takes the form of a reasoned opinion - Member States now have two months to notify the Commission the measures taken to remedy the situation.

ACE believes that deregulation in the architectural sector cannot lead to growth of the sector, which depends only on the levels of investment in the building market. Rather, the key issue for economic growth in the architectural market is the quality that can be achieved and maintained, regardless of regulatory approach. In particular, ACE is critical of the removal of all forms of fee-scales for architects: this has produced a situation in which the courts no longer have any basis on which to make awards during litigation, while public bodies have no reference point when drawing up budgets for public works.


Commission requests Spain to fully comply with the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive

On 25 February, in its monthly package of infringement decisions, the EU Commission sent a reasoned opinion to Spain, requesting full compliance with the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD). A detailed examination of Spain's national legislation transposing the Directive revealed some shortcomings regarding the definition of the Nearly Zero-Energy Buildings (nZEB) standards and their application in time. The Commission further found that the exemptions from the requirements of the Directive introduced by the national legislation went beyond what was foreseen by the Directive. Spain has two months to notify the Commission the measures taken to remedy this situation.


Climate Action: Europe prepares next steps to implement the Paris Agreement

On 2 March, the EU Commission presented an assessment of the implications for the EU of the new global climate agreement adopted in Paris in December 2015. The assessment looks at the next steps in the process and how the Paris Agreement will be implemented in the EU. The assessment is also accompanied by a proposal for the EU to sign the Paris Agreement. The assessment concludes that the implementation of the 2030 energy and climate framework must be a priority and that the EU needs to consolidate its legislation for the transition to a low carbon economy. The immediate next steps are the signature and ratification of the Paris Agreement: the Agreement will open for signatures on 22 April 2016 in New York, and enter into force when at least 55 Parties representing at least 55% of global emissions have ratified. This year the Commission will present the key remaining legislative proposals to implement the 2030 framework, notably proposals for an Effort-Sharing Decision for sectors not covered by the EU Emission Trading Scheme (such as buildings) and proposals to adapt the EU's regulatory framework in order to implement the “energy efficiency first” principle. Read the press release of the Commission.


Ljubljana becomes European Green Capital 2016

On 9 February, EU Commissioner for the Environment, Karmenu Vella, officially handed over the title of European Green Capital for 2016 from Bristol (UK) to Ljubljana (Slovenia). The EU Green Capital Award rewards EU cities' efforts and commitment to improving the urban environment. As Green Capital 2016, Ljubljana will act as ambassador for sustainable urban development, sharing and promoting best practices that have been tried and tested in the Slovenian capital. The Commission is developing a new tool which any city can use to benchmark and monitor its environmental performance, based on the 12 criteria used to select Green Capitals. The tool is expected to be launched in June. More information on DG Environment website.


Production in construction up by 1.6% in EU28

In January 2016 compared with December 2015, seasonally adjusted production in the construction sector increased by 3.6% in the euro area (EA19) and by 1.6% in the EU28, according to first estimates from Eurostat, the statistical office of the EU. Read the full press release

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