By Harry Fernau, Global Market Manager – Real Estate Solutions, SGS
Europe is leading the climate action charge, with a commitment to become the first carbon neutral continent by 2050. It is estimated that the built environment accounts for approximately 40% of energy consumption and 36% of carbon dioxide emissions in the European Union.
Green Buildings Certification
Implementing green buildings at scale will have to play an important part of the EU building strategy to reduce the total greenhouse gas emissions. New initiatives such as the Renovation Wave put retrofitting existing building stock to meet the decarbonisation targets front and centre of policy. To reduce the risk of greenwashing, the implementation of retrofit at scale, particularly where green finance is involved, should include certification as validation of the decarbonisation efforts.
Green building certifications aren’t a new concept, they have been around for decades. Yet green building certification has not typically been implemented across large portfolios of buildings.
Transforming the green building market with EDGE
EDGE is a relatively new green building certification scheme is, that has taken the European market by storm and is paving the path to zero carbon.
Created by IFC, member of the World Bank Group, EDGE is a unique combination of a free software tool, a green building standard and a green building certification scheme. EDGE is transforming the green building market by opening a pathway for organizations to implement green buildings at scale. With EDGE, companies can now transition their building portfolios to operational net zero carbon in a quantifiable, transparent and certified way.
Major organizations are already implementing EDGE
Many players across Europe have already adopted EDGE for their portfolios of buildings. For example, Lidl Danmark recently certified its entire portfolio of 119 existing retail stores. Lidl wanted to set targets for sustainability performance and future improvement according to international best practice.
EDGE’s clear and simple focus on water, operational energy and embodied energy made it the ideal choice for a retailer wishing to manage and improve existing outlets and set parameters for new development. This achievement makes them the leading owner of certified green building stock in Denmark.
Warehouses de Pauw (WDP) also certified its portfolio of 40 warehouses across Romania using EDGE. WDP adopted EDGE certification to quantify the performance of its portfolio in terms of energy, water and materials, and establish a plan for reducing the carbon footprint of the whole portfolio of new and existing developments.
Free EDGE App
EDGE can be applied to existing buildings and new developments, and any type of building including retail, warehouses, residential, offices, hospitals, educational facilities and hospitality. Its unique value proposition is the free EDGE App tool, which streamlines the certification process.
The app enables owners and occupiers to evaluate portfolio performance, make informed decisions about costs and efficiency savings of different measures, and roll out a retrofit process across hundreds of buildings in a streamlined and cost-effective way.
Another reason why European companies choose EDGE is the local baseline data, which is built into the EDGE App. The baseline data is calculated for every single country around the world, and is composed of a mixture of building codes, local climatic data, local utility costs, industry best practices, and more.
Projects in Europe that are meeting the EDGE standard are taking positions of leadership because the underlying baselines for Europe are much higher given the quality of the building regulations and experience in the matter.
Citadines Arnulfpark in Munich recently received EDGE Advanced certification becoming the first hospitality project to be certified with EDGE in the region. The hotel was able to improve its resource efficiency against the local German baseline by 45 percent, an ambitious achievement.
The path to net zero
EDGE is also a tiered certification scheme, creating a pathway to net zero. Net zero means many different things to different people and there are multiple pathways to get there, which can make net zero claims difficult to discern. EDGE Zero Carbon accreditation takes Architecture 2030’s definition of net zero and looks at operational energy.
EDGE Zero Carbon requires a minimum of 20 percent savings in water and embodied energy, with 40 percent energy savings on-site, and 100 percent energy savings achieved either through renewables or carbon offsets compared to a country specific baseline.
First building in Europe to achieve EDGE Zero Carbon
The ProCredit Bulgaria head office in Sofia became the first building in Europe to achieve EDGE Zero Carbon in 2020. To achieve the EDGE Zero Carbon certification, ProCredit Bank Bulgaria EAD focused on making the building as efficient as possible, before installing solar PV on the roof and offsetting any additional electricity exclusively via contracts with suppliers that only use renewable sources. The carbon emissions from the gas fired heating was offset by a local Gold Standard Wastewater Treatment project.
“EDGE aims to move the construction market to Zero Carbon as part of the Paris agreement goals,” says Ommid Saberi, Green Building Specialist at IFC and the technical lead of EDGE. “The baselines for all European countries were recently updated in a project developed in partnership with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and reflect the latest regulatory changes in each country across Europe. All European baselines have been calculated based on policy data collected in 2019.
“This means that when companies undergo EDGE certification for their projects in Europe, the percentage improvement is calculated against this local baseline. This really underlines the achievement of all the companies that have been able to surpass the already very challenging baseline established by the local codes and improve their resource efficiency, as European building codes are already advanced.
“We hope to see more companies using the tool to identify efficiency improvements and to use EDGE to determine how to reach zero carbon certification.”
Currently there are projects undergoing EDGE certification in 26 countries across Europe, and, already, around three million square metres of floor area to date has been certified in the region so far by SGS and our certification partner Sintali.