Construction minister opposes stricter efficiency standards as housing sector tumbles
n-tv / Clean Energy Wire
Germany’s construction minister has opposed stricter energy efficiency requirements for new housing in order to boost the struggling sector. As Germany reaches record lows for residential construction orders, Klara Geywitz wants to overturn the government coalition’s agreement to tighten energy standard requirements for new buildings and instead focus on their whole life-cycle, the Social Democrat (SPD) told broadcaster n-tv. “From my point of view, with current building prices and the very sharp decline in building applications, further tightening of standards should not be done,” Geywitz said. The coalition government of Social Democrats (SPD), Green Party and Free Democrats (FDP) had agreed to increase the energy efficiency requirements of new buildings to EH40 (from the current EH55) by 1 January 2025. This would require new buildings to limit energy use to 40 percent compared to a reference building through, for example, better insulation.
The coalition also aims to build 400,000 new homes annually, but failed the meet the target by 104,700 homes in 2022, isn’t likely to meet it this year either, and Geywitz refused to promise that it will be met in 2024 or 2025. “Following many years of expansion, higher interest rates and the drastic rise in construction costs are now choking off new business,” head of ifo Institute for Economic Research, Klaus Wohlrabe, said in a press release. The first half of 2023 saw a 27 percent fall in building permits for apartments in Germany compared to the same time period the previous year, according to the federal statistics office.
Buildings materials association BDB recently criticised Germany’s “excessive” energy efficiency standards, saying they made the construction of new homes too expensive, hurt those who needed affordable housing, and stalled construction rates. However, Germany’s building sector has repeatedly failed to meet its emission reduction targets, and the current quota to retrofit one percent of existing buildings is much too low to meet them in future, according to an analysis conducted by the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW). The buildings ministry aims to introduce a package of measures to boost housing construction by the end of September.