Euralarm focuses on fire safety in new energy efficiency initiatives

Zug, Switzerland

Image courtesy of Euralarm

The European Parliament has plenary voted in favour of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) recently. This is a major step towards decarbonisation of the building stock. However, the new directive also creates fire safety and security challenges. Euralarm proposes a planned and holistic approach of these topics.

European building stock

A large majority of the buildings in the European Union, about 85%, were constructed prior to 2000. Within this group, 75% are categorised as having inadequate energy performance. Enhancing the energy efficiency of these buildings is essential for energy conservation and crucial to attaining a zero-emission, fully decarbonized building stock by 20501.

Depending on the member state, only 0.4-1.2% of the building stock is renovated each year. These figures allow a lot of room for improvement, not only in energy efficiency but also in economic growth. Renovation and retrofit work on existing buildings add almost twice as much value as the construction of new buildings. SMEs contribute to more than 70% of the value added in the EU building sector. Building corporations as well as project developers are main drivers for renovating existing buildings since their economy of scale makes it financially more interesting to invest in renovations.

Energy Performance of Buildings Directive

To boost the energy performance of buildings, the EU has established a legislative framework that includes the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive EU/2010/31 and the Energy Efficiency Directive EU/2023/1791, both revised in 2023. Together, the directives promote policies that will help achieve a highly energy efficient and decarbonised building stock by 2050 while creating a stable environment for investment decisions. It will enable consumers and businesses to make more informed choices to save energy and money.

The Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) includes an enhanced standard for new buildings, including a more ambitious vision for buildings to be zero-emission. For existing buildings enhanced long-term renovation strategies are included, to be renamed national Building Renovation Plans. Also, deep renovation is introduced as well as building renovation passports. Deep renovation is a process of capturing, in one or, when not possible, a few steps, the full potential of a building to reduce its energy demand, based on its typology and climatic zone.

Elevated fire risks

To attain fully decarbonised buildings further electrification is necessary. The electrification of buildings and society involves the integration of new technologies into buildings which can increase the risk of fire. The increased risk is caused by various factors such as, increased electrical loads; material storage of energy systems, power intensive systems; installation of new technologies; insulation materials; and, ventilation systems for example.

Euralarm urges that these increased risks require significant changes in fire safety and security measures in and around buildings. Understanding and mitigating these increased fire risks are crucial for safely transitioning to more energy-efficient and electrified buildings under the Green Deal framework.

Proactive engagement in energy efficiency initiatives

With fire safety being mentioned and referred to on several places in the EPBD, Euralarm highlights the importance of Member States taking fire safety into account in the building directive. Euralarm urges all national fire associations within the Member States to proactively engage with their respective local governments to assist and provide expertise in activities related to building renovations and fire safety. Their involvement is crucial in shaping policies and practices that ensure the fire safety and security of our communities in the living and work environment. It will also raise the awareness with policy makers, building owners and end users.

As local fire safety experts, the knowledge and experience of local associations, installers and fire safety specialists are invaluable in guiding building renovations to meet both current and emerging fire safety standards. Euralarm encourages them to reach out to the local authorities and help, ensuring that fire safety is a central consideration in all building (renovation) projects.

Euralarm holistic approach

When getting engaged in either of the energy efficiency initiatives Euralarm proposes to follow a holistic approach. First, the building structure and its contents must be considered as to how they contribute to the overall fire load as well as how they can hinder and restrain a fire event. Considering the building and its contents as a system allows authorities, fire safety engineers and building owners to oversee the impact of changes on the fire safety.

It would then also enable the responsible persons, i.e., authorities or building owners, to optimise or fully maximize the use of technical means to provide early detection and evacuation of the building. The early detection and warning could be coupled with systems for extinguishing fires, managing smoke and heat as well as guidance systems to bring occupants into safety.

An organisational plan should be made with an overall view on the building including infrastructure, its intended use and occupancy, and systems in place for detection and management of fires. This plan should identify what is to be done in the event of a fire and who is responsible to initiate and execute which measures.

The introduction of a holistic approach towards fire safety requires qualified people and companies who can define the fire safety concept. The required level of qualification not only counts for the definition phase but also for the design, installation, commission, and maintenance phase. Following this approach should lead to systems that are in line with the EN 16763 Services Standard for Fire Safety Systems and Security Systems. Together, all stakeholders can work towards a safer, more resilient built environment across all member states.


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