EU policy makers have for a long time recognised the importance of building performance in the effort to mitigate climate change - starting with the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) and the Energy Efficiency Directive (EED) - but capturing the energy saving potential of the building stock has posed a challenge. While the efficiency of new buildings has steadily improved over time, most of Europe's existing building stock has yet to be affected by energy performance requirements. Reliable data on the composition of the building stock is required, in order to increase the effectiveness of building policies and to be able to evaluate if these policies had the intended result.
The main characteristics of the building stock are defined by the following indicators:
The EU building stock is quite heterogeneous. Across all Member States, the majority of the floor area is composed by residential buildings. The share varies considerably, from around 60% in Slovakia, Netherlands and Austria to more than 85% in the southern countries of Cyprus, Malta and Italy.
The average age of existing buildings and the share of new buildings from the total stock are good indicators, indicative of the overall efficiency of the building stock. The higher the share of new dwellings (built with higher efficient standards) the higher the overall energy performance of the building stock generally will be. In most EU countries, half of the residential stock was built before the first thermal regulations (built before 1970). In some other countries, such as Cyprus, Spain and Ireland, the share of new dwellings (built after 2000) is significant.
The building typology is fundamental to draw an accurate portrait of the EU building stock. The type of dwelling has an impact on the space heating energy performances, since different insulation characteristics imply different specific space heating consumption (due to different wall area in contact with the outdoors). For example, a semidetached house consumes in theory less per m² than a detached dwelling.
The building stock by type of dwellings differs significantly across the EU. In the United Kingdom and Ireland, single-family dwellings are the dominant type (above 80%), while in Spain and Estonia, multi-family dwellings represent more than 70% of all dwellings. If we look at the EU average, there is almost an equal share of both types of dwellings, with an average of 49% for multi-family dwellings.
The degree of urbanisation is a classification based on a combination of geographical contiguity and minimum population thresholds applied to a 1 km² population grid cells. This indicator reflects the number of residential buildings/dwellings per location:
The average distribution of residential buildings is 42% in the urban centre, 30% in intermediate urban areas, and the remaining 28% in rural areas. Of course, this distribution differs among countries. While Germany, Sweden and Italy the degree of urbanisation is aligned with the EU average distribution, in Malta the population is mainly concentrated to the urban centre.
The distribution of floor areas by branch is not homogeneous and depends on the economic structure of each sector. On average, three quarters of the service floor area is covered by offices (including both private and public; 30%), wholesale (27%) and education (16%).