Everything you need to know about environmental regulation RE 2020

It’s no secret that the whole of the construction industry is going to have to adapt in order to tackle the challenges posed by climate change. Setting ambitious goals, without actually imposing specific measures to be implemented, the new RE 2020 regulation has been brought in to replace RT 2012.

Although it imposes new constraints on the building industry, this new standard is designed to be a driver of innovation to protect our planet.

Discover the main changes introduced by this new RE 2020 standard, and how it now integrates climate change, both for heating and the management of heat waves. Move over low-energy buildings, it’s time to make way for energy plus buildings.

1974: first thermal regulations

1974, the first oil crisis, marked the starting point for the first thermal regulations aimed at limiting the energy consumption of new residential buildings. Since then, new regulations have repeatedly been introduced to improve on the previous versions with ever more ambitious goals to meet the ever-growing challenges. Hence the introduction of RE 2020 (Environmental Regulation 2020) to replace RT 2012 (Thermal Regulation 2012), with new measures due to be implemented in 2024, 2027 and 2030.

What are the objectives of the new environmental regulation RE 2020?

The objective of the RE 2020 is two-fold:

  • lower energy consumption of new buildings
  • lower carbon emissions from the construction phase, across the whole life cycle of the materials.

This evolution is underpinned by three main principles:

  1. Favour renewable heating methods in new buildings by eliminating systems based on fossil fuels, including gas, and favouring buildings’ thermal mass even during heat waves.
  2. Standardise construction methods, favouring biosourced materials with a low carbon footprint.
  3. Optimise the environmental characteristics of construction materials: sustainability and traceability.

Ultimately, this approach aims to stimulate

  • a reduction in energy consumption with energy plus buildings
  • a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions across the whole of the construction cycle
  • the creation of local jobs.

What are the main differences between RT 2012 and RE 2020?

RT 2012 was introduced in the wake of the Grenelle environment roundtable and placed low-energy buildings at the heart of the ecological transition.

RE 2020 is intended to be even more stringent in order to provide the most effective response to the real dangers of climate change: the risks associated with heat waves.

From low energy to positive energy

RE 2020 naturally goes further than RT 2012 to make new buildings more efficient and less harmful to the environment. While RT 2012 set a limit for buildings’ energy consumption, the new RE 2020 standard requires buildings to produce more energy than they consume.

RT 2012 targeted mainly heating and cooling methods, as well as systems for producing hot water and lighting. RE 2020 integrates other usages such as household appliances, electronic devices and home automation. The idea is to draw on progress made in the field of smart buildings and artificial intelligence to drive innovation.

The regulation sets the objective, and it is then up to building professionals to find the solutions to achieve it, developing in the process their own techniques and innovations.

A global vision with the life cycle of materials

Standard RE 2020 also introduces the calculation of the life cycle of materials, favouring biosourced materials such as cork, hemp and wood, while penalising materials which have a significant impact on the environment, such as steel or concrete, with measures to be gradually phased in over the coming years to help professionals prepare the transition.

Anticipating future heat waves

Finally, RE 2020 places considerable emphasis on a notion which is completely absent from RT 2012: the growing need for cooling. The calculation of the new discomfort indicator (DH) will depend on how temperatures evolve in the years to come, encouraging professionals to design their projects to optimise centralised ventilation. It’s therefore a real opportunity to put forward innovative solutions to provide thermal comfort in summer as well as winter.

Which buildings are concerned by RE 2020?

Since 1 January 2022, RE 2020 has applied to single-family homes and multiple-family buildings.

From July 2022, it will be extended to cover office and educational buildings. Finally, specific commercial buildings, such as shops or hotels, will be the last to be impacted.

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