French Regulations Foster a More Climate-Compatible Building Industry

As of January 1, 2022, new French environmental regulations ("RE2020") are coming into force, replacing the former thermic regulations ("RT 2012"). RE2020 creates new rules for the energy, environmental, and health performance of new building projects with the clear objective of ensuring that future buildings in France will meet climate change challenges. 

In this respect, this legislation pursues two objectives. First, it aims at strengthening the requirements applicable to new buildings in order to reduce the carbon footprint associated with the building industry and its impact on climate change throughout the life cycle of the buildings. Second, it seeks to boost resilience of construction against the consequences of climate change.

To achieve these goals, RE2020 requires that new building projects, including for the renovation of buildings, meet several targets, such as optimizing overall energy conception, reducing primary energy consumption, reducing the impact on climate change of such consumption and of the components of the buildings, as well as limiting heat discomfort in buildings during summertime. 

Project managers ("maîtres d'ouvrage") of buildings that are in the scope of RE2020 will have to file declarations and certificates establishing that the project complies with the performance indicators and thresholds defined by ministerial orders and decrees as part of the building permit application. An attestation confirming that the building meets the requirements set out by RE2020 will also have to be established by a qualified professional at the end of construction. Finally, additional energy performance requirements are set for non-housing buildings, such as healthcare establishments or industrial buildings.

RE2020 applies to housing buildings with permit requests filed on or after January 1, 2022. It will progressively be extended to other construction, such as office buildings and associated parking lots, for permit applications filed after July 1, 2022. In addition to this timeline, and to ensure that adjustments can be made to the requirements should they prove to be too ambitious, performance indicators will be used to determine if RE2020 is working as intended.

RE2020 creates both new challenges and opportunities for various sectors associated with the building industry. (Indeed, challenges will surely arise due to the complex technical nature of certain requirements.) Overall, this legislation should accelerate the development of a more climate-compatible building industry. In particular, it should increase the attractiveness of bio-sourced building materials and more efficient energy sources.

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