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Energy efficiency in buildings


Established in 2016, the working group on energy efficiency in buildings (EE in buildings) works to unlock the energy savings potential of the building sector. This includes boosting the potential of existing and new buildings. To achieve this, the working group is divided into two subgroups: 

  • New materials and technologies for energy efficient solutions for buildings 
  • Cross-cutting heating and cooling technologies for buildings. 

The working group on EE in buildings plays an essential role in:  

  • setting out the measures required to achieve the energy efficiency targets in the building sector  
  • identifying ongoing projects  
  • proposing new activities, if needed.   

Targets and objectives

The European Commission, in collaboration with the SET Plan Steering Group and stakeholders, has produced a list of research and innovation targets for each subgroup. These targets aim to promote highly efficient material and technological solutions to increase energy efficiency in buildings. 


Action 5.1 – agreed specific targets:   

  1. reduce the primary energy of buildings by 60% on average, while also reducing total cost of ownership and limiting the payback time to 10 years 
  2. develop and demonstrate market ready solutions to reduce the construction and maintenance costs of nearly zero energy buildings (NZEB) or positive energy buildings by at least 10% compared to their 2015 costs, with a view to reaching a cost reduction of 15%. 
  3. develop and demonstrate market ready solutions to reduce the average duration of energy-related construction works by over 20% for renovation and new buildings compared to current national standard practices 
  4. develop and demonstrate market ready solutions to reduce the difference between predicted and measured energy performance by 10%, possibly extending to a 15% after the commissioning period. 


Action 5.2 – agreed specific targets: 

1. Heat pump systems:  

  • reduce costs for small and large heat pumps by 50% (compared to 2015 market price)
  • develop prefabricated, fully integrated 'plug in and play' hybrid/multisource heat pump systems and integrated compact heating/cooling plants based on modular heat pumps.

2. District heating and cooling (DHC):  

  • increase renewable heat by 25% in a cost effective manner and without decreasing consumer service 
  • reduce DHC substations’ reference costs for residential buildings by 20% (compared to 2015 prices).

3. Micro combined heat and power (CHP)/ combined cooling, heating and power (CCHP):  

  • reduce costs for equipment and installation by 50% (compared to 2015 market price) 
  • increase the energy efficiency of micro CHP/CCHP by 20% (compared to 2015 levels) by increasing operational electrical efficiency and maintaining thermal efficiency. 

4. Thermal energy storage: 

  • improve performance of above ground and underground energy storage (energy efficiency, system lifetime, operation and maintenance) by 25% (compared to 2015 levels) 
  • increase storage density at the system level by 200% (including pumps, valves, pipes, short-term buffer) from the current state of the art 60 kWh/m³. 


Improving energy efficiency in buildings is key to achieving carbon-neutrality by 2050. The evolution of the building sector is marked by aspects such as:  

  • digitalisation of construction 
  • industrialisation/standardisation of processes 
  • sustainability, by observing circular economy principles
  • innovation and optimisation regarding renewable and energy-efficient systems for heating and cooling and their integration into buildings.


The working group's research and innovation activities support these major drivers in transforming the building sector.  


Activities for Action 5.1 set out in the implementation plan:   

  • 5.1-1: New materials for buildings 
  • 5.1-2: Prefabricated active modules for façades and roofs or key enabling technologies for active building skins 
  • 5.1-3: Digital planning and operational optimisation  
  • 5.1-4: Living labs - energy technologies and solutions for decarbonised European quarters and cities 


Activities for Action 5.2 set out in the implementation plan:   

  • 5.2-1: Cost-efficient, intelligent, flexible heat pumps (also thermally driven) and heat pumps for high temperatures 
  • 5.2-2: Multi-source district heating integrating renewable and recovered heat sources, higher temperature district cooling and optimisation of building heating system, to minimise the temperature levels in district heating networks 
  • 5.2-3: Cost reduction and increase in efficiency of micro CHP/CCHP 
  • 5.2-4: Compact thermal energy storage materials, components and systems 


Particular attention must be paid to non-technological issues, as they are equally important as technological issues. Non-technological issues include: 

  • user acceptance 
  • education and training of individuals/bodies 
  • architectural issues 
  • urban planning problems 
  • synergies with the transport sector.  

The working group on EE in buildings has launched the living labs Europe competition (LLEC). The LLEC aims to transform Europe into a climate neutral continent by bundling societal, economic and technological interests into one joint European process.   

The LLEC focuses on the end-users, using a competitive format addressing all interest groups. The competition will create a context where individuals and society can change their behaviour through face-to-face discussion and exchange of ideas – a specific European approach. For more information contact: m [dot] kratzatfz-juelich [dot] de (m[dot]kratz[at]fz-juelich[dot]de) & s [dot] jackatfz-juelich [dot] de (s[dot]jack[at]fz-juelich[dot]de).  

Through the LLEC’s activity, the aim of the working group on EE in buildings is to help achieve the goals of the renovation wave strategy and the energy system integration strategy. A collaboration with the working group on smart cities and communities has been established to address this topic. 


The group is chaired by Germany and includes 12 other European countries. The working group is supported by the European Technology and Innovation Platform on Renewable Heating and Cooling (RHC-ETIP) and the European Construction Technology Platform (ECTP). 

Participating countries (in alphabetical order):

Participating SET Plan countries  



Czech Republic


Germany (Chair)











Background and political relevance

Buildings account for around 40% of final energy consumption and 60% of electricity consumption in the EU. Therefore, the buildings sector can lead to significant CO2 reduction and energy savings, and to climate goals being achieved.  

Energy efficiency in buildings plays a strategic role in many EU energy policies, e.g. the European Green Deal and the renovation wave strategy. While new buildings account for only a minor share of the energy-savings potential, existing buildings have a higher energy-saving potential due to their larger number and their high-energy demand.  

Regrettably, the current yearly renovation rate of 1% is still insufficient. Heating and cooling are crucial for fulfilling the energy-saving potential of buildings. Renewable technologies are not deployed sufficiently in this area; if deployed, they would enormously help to reduce CO2. The public are central to this energy efficiency approach as buildings affect their daily quality of life. On average, a person spends more than 90% of their time indoors. Access to funding for building renovation projects must be ensured. In this context, national strategies provide opportunities for further developments and collaborations.  



Factsheet3 May 2021
Factsheet on energy efficiency in buildings 2020
Factsheet19 February 2021
Factsheet on energy efficiency in buildings 2019
Strategic plan19 February 2021
Implementation plan on energy efficiency solutions for buildings

Contact point

Chair: Annett Kühn a [dot] kuehnatfz-juelich [dot] de (a[dot]kuehn[at]fz-juelich[dot]de) 

Co-Chair 5.1: Paul Cartuyvels pcartuyvelsatbouygues-europe [dot] com (pcartuyvels[at]bouygues-europe[dot]com) 

Co-Chair 5.2: Wim van Helden w [dot] vanheldenataee [dot] at (w[dot]vanhelden[at]aee[dot]at)