Have you unwrapped Hugo de Jonge’s Christmas present yet? Probably not, because the bow will only come off in 2025. Then the new requirements regarding CO will come into force2emissions from building materials. Discover now what measures the cabinet proposes to build in a much more environmentally friendly way.
Usually it’s bad news when the cabinet reveals new plans just before a recess. This time Hugo de Jonge (Minister of Housing and Spatial Planning) sent a much more positive message to the world on Friday 23 December. Together with Minister Piet Adema from the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality and State Secretary Vivianne Heijnen for Infrastructure and Water Management, he sent a letter to the House of Representatives containing ‘Political agenda to standardize and stimulate circular construction’. What was announced earlier in 2022 is now really taking shape: an impulse to bio-based construction, so that the large amount of CO22 which the construction sector can actually reduce emissions.
Improving environmental performance
In the letter to parliament, De Jonge writes that “there is CO in the built environment2emissions from heating homes and other buildings. In the Acceleration Program for the Sustainability of the Built Environment (PVGO; ed.), I have described how the cabinet will improve this CO2want to reduce emissions in the use phase: mainly by focusing on improving the energy performance of homes and other buildings. In addition to this ambition, I have also briefly stated in the PVGO how I want to improve the environmental performance of buildings.
The environmental performance indicates the environmental impact of the building materials and products (including building installations) used in the building. This environmental impact is calculated over the entire life cycle: from extraction and production, transport and construction process, use phase, up to
the demolition phase and the waste phase, including possible reuse and recycling.”
To improve environmental performance, De Jonge recommends these methods:
- the use of renewable materials such as bio-raw materials and reduction of the use of primary raw materials;
- reuse or recycling of building materials;
- reduction of the environmental impact from the production of building materials.
De Jonge wants to enforce the actual ability to tackle these problems to further limit the environmental impact of the built environment with these measures:
- tightening and expanding environmental performance requirements for new buildings;
- introduce standards for CO2-emission from the use of materials in buildings;
- encourage construction with bio-based raw materials.
De Jonge will have an impact study carried out for the proposed new requirements. He will also look at new developments in sustainable construction, at available market volumes of construction products (new and sustainable) and at the scale possibilities of conceptual and industrial construction.
Various frontrunners in the construction industry, says De Jonge, are working hard to make construction more sustainable. For example, he mentions promising innovations in the concrete and steel industry, but also the bio-based building materials industry and the development of new design and construction methods (photo above).
De Jonge: “All these developments are desperately needed and lead to the possibility of realizing realistic, ambitious standards to reduce environmental pressure. I will take the practical, useful knowledge and experience gained in the various pioneering projects into the design.”
With regard to the conceptual structure, De Jonge states: “The starting point is that heightened ambitions in the area of sustainability are uniform nationwide and that they are long-term and predictable. My commitment is to enable standardization and continuous construction flows with nationally uniform requirements at a high level of ambition. In this way, I also contribute to affordable housing.”
Specifically, De Jonge wants to reduce the MPG for new homes and offices to 0.5 (by 2025) and also apply that standard in education, healthcare and renovation. Use of bio-based insulation materials can count on extra subsidies (ISDE) from 1 January 2024.
Even more important is this proposal from De Jonge and his colleagues: “I intend to introduce a new requirement for CO2emissions caused by the use of building materials. In that claim, CO2 is valued from the carbon that is bound in bio-based materials. With such a new requirement, there is an opportunity for more targeted management of circular construction to contribute to the cabinet’s climate ambitions.” This means that a new distinction is made between, for example, concrete and wood, which encourages the most environmentally friendly material.
Structure of life cycle
However, De Jonge makes the following reservation: “I want to prevent a too fast and strict requirement from slowing down the pace of housing construction unnecessarily. A point of attention when developing a new CO2Another requirement is whether the new instrument must relate to the entire life cycle of the construction work or only to the production phase of the building materials and the construction itself. The consideration here is the balance between reduction of CO2emissions for a contribution to the climate ambitions towards 2030 and 2050 versus the assigned reduction of CO2emissions in the longer term, where the phase of recycling and reuse of materials after demolition or new use of the structure is also taken into account.”
Finally, De Jonge pleads for the cultivation and use of more bio-based raw materials in construction. De Jonge wants to develop a revenue model to make the transition to this crop more attractive for arable farmers. However, growing fibers such as hemp and flax (photo above) currently generates less income than growing conventional crops. More demand from builders and developers is an important prerequisite in this regard, says De Jonge, who has already given a solid start to this transition with a start-up grant for Building Balance.
All in all, it is a hopeful course that has been set, and which could also count on a happy dance among the frontrunners. For example, Jan Willem van de Groep (Building Balance, Gideon) also described the announced policy as “a Christmas present from Hugo to the frontrunners in the construction industry”, and colleague Gideon Marjet Rutten also wrote “so nice that it has worked out”.
Gideon Norbert Schotte has argued many of the above questions more often in recent years, as in this Manifesto, and also called the letter ‘good news’. Schotte: “What started two years ago with a manifesto has now resulted in a good (intermediate) result. I have recently seen many great messages from frontrunners who have been working with bio-based construction for decades. When they started, they were not listened to. They were the goat wool socks figures and were simply not taken seriously. Due to the tremendous acceleration and scale-up of bio-based construction, this announced policy gives these frontrunners a token of appreciation and a huge boost to work with a larger group of people on the materials transition.”
Now we have to wait for the reactions from politicians in The Hague and the rest of the construction sector. Pay attention to the last day before the summer vacation, because Hugo de Jonge concluded the letter to the parliament with the promise that he “will inform the members of parliament before the summer vacation of 2023 about the above intentions and how he will elaborate them further in the legislation and regulations”.
Text: Ysbrand Visser