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Building Environmental Regulations Around the Globe



Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a major global concern to achieve the goals set in the 2015 Paris Agreement. The RCP 2.6 and RCP 4.5 scenarios, aimed at limiting global warming to 2°C and 1.5°C respectively by the end of the century, require a drastic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. The energy performance of buildings is a key factor in achieving these goals, as buildings account for approximately 40% of global energy consumption and are responsible for about 30% of greenhouse gas emissions. Regulatory policies worldwide are therefore seeking to promote sustainable construction practices and improve the energy efficiency of existing buildings to achieve these objectives.


Regulation in the USA


In the United States, buildings account for nearly 40% of energy consumption and two-thirds of electricity consumption. However, the federal government does not have the authority to adopt mandatory building codes at the national level. The two main building codes used are ASHRAE Standard 90.1, titled "Energy Standard for Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings," and the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC). While these codes are voluntary, many states and municipalities have adopted them as mandatory minimum requirements for building construction and renovation. Nevertheless, this has sparked debates about the need for stricter federal regulation of building energy efficiency to reduce energy consumption and associated environmental impact.


Regulation in France


Thermal and environmental regulations in France were first implemented in 1974 in response to the first oil crisis and have evolved since then to include tertiary buildings in 1988 and set minimum performance standards for the building envelope and its systems. The former thermal regulation in force, RT2012, was based on the "Low Energy Building" label and aimed to improve the energy performance of buildings while ensuring occupant comfort. The main difference between a thermal regulation and an environmental regulation lies in their approach. Thermal regulation mainly focuses on the energy consumption of buildings, while environmental regulation takes into account not only energy consumption, but also the carbon footprint of the building throughout its life cycle, including construction, use, and demolition, as well as materials and equipment used. The new environmental regulation in France, RE2020, introduces an innovative approach by considering the carbon footprint of the building, with objectives for energy performance, thermal comfort, and climate impact of the building. RE2020 provides for three successive milestones in 2025, 2028, and 2031, with increasingly stringent carbon thresholds for buildings in France. The first milestone in 2025 aims to promote the gradual phasing out of fossil fuel use by reducing the thresholds for the Construction Carbon Index and the Energy Carbon Index by 12% and 200% respectively. In summary, RE2020 aims to improve the energy performance and comfort of buildings while minimizing their environmental impact, taking into account their carbon footprint and encouraging the use of sustainable materials and equipment. Performance thresholds will be progressively strengthened over time to promote the transition to more environmentally friendly buildings.



Regulation in China


China is currently the largest emitter of CO2 in the world. Due to its strong economic growth between 1995 and 2005, its real estate market has tripled, with the creation of nearly 4 billion square meters of buildings each year in recent years. To address this intensification of activity in the construction sector, the Chinese authorities have recognized the urgency of improving the energy efficiency of buildings by adopting robust regulatory policies. GB 50176-2016 is a national standard in China that concerns the requirements for the design and evaluation of energy performance of residential and commercial buildings. Its objective is to promote the construction of energy-efficient and environmentally friendly buildings. It establishes technical requirements for the design and evaluation of the energy performance of buildings, including heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, lighting, building envelope, as well as energy management and maintenance. It defines energy performance criteria for new buildings, as well as requirements for the renovation of existing buildings. It also encourages the use of energy-saving technologies, renewable energy sources, and environmentally friendly building materials. GB 50176-2016 is an important tool for local authorities, designers, builders, and building owners in China to improve the energy performance of buildings, reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, and promote sustainable development of the construction sector in China. It is also aligned with China's national goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and international commitments under the Paris Agreement on climate change



Regulation in Thaïland


In Thailand, the building sector is one of the main contributors to the country's CO2 emissions and accounts for approximately 30% of the country's total energy consumption. To address this challenge, the Thai government has implemented a plan to improve energy efficiency in Thailand, launched in 2011 for a duration of 20 years, aiming to reduce energy consumption by 25% by 2030 compared to the consumption in 2011. In March 2021, the Department of Development and Energy Efficiency has revised the Building Energy Code (BEC) standards as part of the 20-year energy savings plan from 2018 to 2037, with the aim of reducing electricity demand. These standards, also known as BEC Standards, are used as criteria for obtaining a building permit and are integrated into the building design in coordination with other government agencies. The Thai government has then implemented policies to encourage the construction of eco-energy buildings and the renovation of existing buildings to improve their energy efficiency. Regulations on the energy performance of buildings have been strengthened to include mandatory minimum standards, and the Thai Green Building Institute has been developed for the Ministry of Energy of Thailand, which has developed the TREES system (Thai's Rating of Energy and Environmental Sustainability) to evaluate the energy and environmental performance of buildings in Thailand, which is available in several versions, such as TREES-EB for existing buildings, TREES-NC for new buildings. The TREES program is governed and controlled by the TGBI, an institution created in 2008 through the cooperation of the Siamese Architects Association under Royal Patronage and the Institute of Engineering of Thailand under royal patronage



In conclusion, thermal regulations worldwide are essential for promoting energy efficiency, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and ensuring sustainability in the construction sector. Many countries have adopted building standards and codes to improve the energy performance of buildings, encourage the use of energy-saving technologies and renewable energy sources, and promote sustainable construction practices. However, challenges remain in terms of awareness, training, monitoring, and international harmonization. It is crucial to continue collaborating to implement and strengthen these regulations in order to create a more sustainable future for future generations

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