Expert: Limit living space to shrink building carbon footprint

Expert: Limit living space to shrink building carbon footprint


Energy efficient building renovation is not enough to lessen the climate impact of residential buildings, according to one sustainability expert who is calling for a limit on the living space allocated per person in residential homes. EURACTIV France reports.

Individuals should be allocated living space of between 14-20 square metres for a single person and 40-80 square metres for a four-person household, according to Pia Mamut, a research fellow at the Chair of International Relations and Sustainable Development at Germany’s Münster University.

While such an idea may seem extreme, “the contextual, social, economic and cultural conditions are already being explored in both science and policy,” Mamut told a webinar organised by the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) on Wednesday (29 April).

During her presentation for the event, Building in a World Beyond Growth, Mamut proposed several solutions for low-carbon housing, including limiting the number of square metres per person, but warned that such calculations related to housing size “cannot simply be imposed but require a democratic process and agreement on the limits.”

The webinar, moderated by EURACTIV editor Frédéric Simon, follows the publication of an EEB report titled: “An action plan to deliver a healthy, affordable and sustainable built environment for all”.

In its report, the EEB advocates the idea that, in order to reduce carbon emissions from the building sector, the focus should only lie on energy renovation but also on our planet’s natural resources in order to create a more sustainable and ecological habitat.

Energy-efficient buildings should be ‘new normal’, says EU’s Simson

The European commissioner for energy, Kadri Simson, on Tuesday (20 April) underlined the importance of the ‘Renovation Wave’ strategy in combating energy poverty in the European Union, saying that sustainable, energy-efficient buildings should be “the new normal”.

‘This goes too far’

However, others attending the event were sceptical about the proposal’s practicability.

“It’s very difficult to get political buy-in for limiting the maximum size of residential units,” said Irish Green MEP Ciaran Cuffe

“It’s going to be difficult to control issues like this,” she added, suggesting it would be better to optimise the use of existing buildings.

Stefan Moser, head of unit at the European Commission’s Directorate-General for energy, agreed, saying that “this should be done on a voluntary basis” and that imposing limits on living space “is going too far”.

According to the Commissioner, there should be a greater focus on “renovation rather than new construction”, as this would better combat carbon emissions from the building sector. Moser also pointed to the tax on heating fuels, saying “you can make it more expensive in terms of tax if you live in a big house.”

However, the matter “cannot be taken over by the Commission” as it falls under national competence, he added.

Next June, as part of the “Fit for 55” package, the European Commission will revise its energy taxation directive, with the aim of reversing the current logic whereby electricity, which is supposed to be greener, is more heavily taxed than fossil fuels like gas and oil.

A public consultation is already available on the Commission’s website.

Brussels urges 27 to ‘make the most’ of energy efficiency funds

The European commissioner for energy, Kadri Simson, said on Thursday (22 April) that member states should take advantage of the European Union’s historic €1.8 trillion budget and recovery fund to invest in energy efficiency.

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