The pandemic of COVID-19 has changed the European economy. For several months some of the industries were frozen, many had to shift their business model and offer new services, and digitalization became a fact – not a future plan. As a response to the economic crisis, the European Commission decided to launch ‘the largest stimulus package ever’ – NextGenerationEU. This is not only a recovery plan, but an attempt to transform the economy into digital and green. Each Member State was responsible for preparing a national plan to allocate funds and create a bright scenario for the European Community. In Portugal, it is called the Recovery and Resilience Plan (Plano de Recuperação e Resiliência) and operates an outstanding budget of 16 644 million euros. It is developed in three axes: Resilience, Climatic Transition and Digital Transition. Two out of twenty components are related directly to construction: Housing and Energy Efficiency in Buildings . In this article, I will focus on the domain in which Dosta Tec has the biggest expertise: energy efficiency.
The component Energy Efficiency in Buildings looks to promote decarbonization in the residential sector, favouring urban rehabilitation and increased energy efficiency in buildings, promoting progressive electrification of the sector and the use of more efficient equipment, and combating energy poverty. Among multiple goals to be achieved, the following stand out:
- reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by reducing very significant energy consumption,
- reduction of energy bill and dependence,
- reduction of energy poverty,
- improvement of levels of comfort and indoor air quality,
- promotion of labour productivity, as a result of the increased Environmental Indoor Quality (EIQ) and the mitigation of occupant illness situations,
- extending the life of buildings and increasing their resilience through the improvement of buildings and their characteristics (renovation),
- use of materials that can be manufactured in Portugal with the use of intensive and specialized local manpower;
Apart from quite standard goals and conclusions like reducing energy use, it looks to connect knowledge and research from multiple disciplines, such as productivity and comfort. In fact, multiple studies have proved the relation between productivity and EIQ  . Although in Portugal, this topic is not well explored nor measured properly. It seems that the component creates a great opportunity to focus on this and other vaguely researched topics. Also, the goals point out the importance of embodied energy and durability. It promotes renovation as a simple way to enhance the energy efficiency of the existing building stock. Finally, it draws a sharp relation between architecture, the circular economy and local materials.
According to the plan, the investment would focus on the three following actions:
- Long Term Strategy for Building Renovation (Estratégia de Longo Prazo para a Renovação de Edifícios – ELPRE). A reform approved in the National Energy and Climate Plan (Plano Nacional Energia e Clima 2021-2030)  is going to promote the energy-efficient renovations of the Portuguese buildings stock, paying attention to residents’ comfort. The plan includes the Road Map with indicative measures and targets for 2030, 2040 and 2050 developed in seven domains:
- Building renovation: the creation of an adequate financial framework – reorientation of financing lines for the energy renovation of the buildings envelope, revision of the current Energy Efficiency Program in Public Administration (according to EBPD), better environmental performance of buildings,
- Development and promotion of smart building envelopes, with a focus on research and technological innovation,
- Strengthening the normative and regulatory framework for energy certification of buildings, which includes, among other measures, the labelling of products and/or services related to the energy renovation of buildings, the use of energy certificates as an access mechanism for financing or other types of benefits, and qualification of the energy class of buildings as an incentive or conditioning factor in the rental market,
- Closing gaps in training and professional qualification in the field of performance of buildings, in terms of energy efficiency and resources,
- Actions to combat energy poverty, reduction of energy consumption charges and providing support to the most vulnerable households in the energy renovation of their homes through, through the provision of mechanisms for financing and tax benefits,
- Actions to ensure the information and awareness of citizens and companies, public and private, for the benefits arising from the renovation of buildings through,
- Implementation of a set of indicators and mechanisms to monitor ELPRE’s progress and ascertain the respective practical results in the energy performance of the buildings,
- Resource Efficiency Program in Public Administration 2030 (Programa de Eficiência de Recursos na Administração Pública 2030 – ECO.AP 2030) The program aims to promote the decarbonization and energy transition of activities carried out by the State, contributing to the goals of reducing GHG emissions, reducing energy consumption by reinforcement of energy efficiency, the incorporation of renewables in the gross final consumption of energy, as well as promoting the efficient management of resources in the Public Administration,
- National Strategy for Combating Energy Poverty (Estratégia Nacional para o Combate à Pobreza Energética) strengthens the role of the citizen as an active agent in decarbonization and energy transition, fighting energy poverty, creates instruments for the protection of vulnerable citizens and promotes the active involvement of citizens and territorial enhancement.
The investments to be implemented amount to 620 M€ and will allocate the resources in three groups: energy efficiency in residential buildings (300 M€), energy efficiency in central public administration buildings (250 M€), energy efficiency in service buildings (70 M€). Energy efficiency in residential buildings is divided into the following specific tasks:
- Passive improvements at the level of the envelope, e.g., thermal insulation of walls, thermal insulation of roofs and glazing,
- Active improvements, eg., HVAC systems for heating and/or cooling and SWH,
- Energy generation systems and measuring through, e.g., electric energy generation systems from renewable sources, renewable energy community,
- Interventions aimed at water efficiency, including the replacement of equipment with more efficient equipment,
- Interventions that promote biomaterials, recycled materials, natural-based solutions, green facades and roofs and bioclimatic architecture solutions, on urban buildings or their existing autonomous fractions;
Some of the implementations are already functioning, like CasA+, and they clearly reflect the legislation.
The Recovery and Resilience Plan draws an interesting scenario for the next years of development of Portugal, importantly next to the Renovation Wave Directive and New European Bauhaus it shows a new way of development of Portuguese architecture: renovation. Some of the activities repeat in different actions, which essentially mean that these aspects are crucial and multifaceted, and funds will be allocated by different rules. With more than 97% of building stock with renovation potential, it sends clear information to the industry: renovate efficiently.
 Macedo A. et al., “Characterization of Indoor Environmental Quality in Primary Schools in Maia: A Portuguese Case Study,” Human and Ecological Risk Assessment: An International Journal, vol. 19, no. 1, (Jan. 2013), pp. 126–136. https://doi.org/10.1080/10807039.2012.683751