Danish Energy Agency SBE0015
Written evidence from the Danish Energy Agency
As part of the Danish Government’s climate and green energy agenda, Denmark works directly with other ambitious countries on the green transition of the energy sector. Denmark, via the Danish Energy Agency and the Danish Embassy in London, has been following and supporting policy efforts in the area of heat and energy efficiency in both the UK and Scotland for a number of years.
Work underway in the UK to achieve a net zero compatible buildings sector is of great interest to Denmark. We are greatly anticipating the publication of the Heat & Buildings Strategy, and have been following the development of the Future Homes Standard with interest. Denmark has had considerable success in decarbonising the buildings sector, but there is also much we can learn from the UK’s ambitious approach. Given the substantive policy programmes for building decarbonisation and energy efficiency underway in both the UK and Denmark, we hope there will be continued opportunities for collaborating and knowledge-sharing between our two countries.
In Denmark, the first building standards containing energy requirements were introduced in 1961. Since then, the energy demand of new buildings has been reduced by 95%. The current Danish building standard sets high standards for both fabric efficiency, air tightness of the building as well as air quality, and energy service systems, including renewable energy. However, the energy efficient operation of buildings is only a part of the overall carbon footprint of a building.
Denmark has therefore more recently started to focus on sustainability as a supplement to energy related requirements. In March 2020 the Danish climate partnership for the construction sector produced a report on their vision for how the Danish building and construction industry can contribute to Denmark’s goal of a 70% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2030. This included specific recommendations to the Danish Government on how to reduce emissions by 5.8 million tonnes of CO2 per year by 2030 through initiatives across the construction sector. Following on from this, a National Strategy for Sustainable Construction was agreed in the Danish parliament in March 2021 which introduces CO2 emissions requirements for buildings constructed from 2023, alongside other initiatives to incentivise climate-friendly construction and renovation.
The information that follows effectively provides a case study of the Danish building regulations and approach to sustainability in the construction sector, and has been prepared by the Danish Embassy in London, together with the Danish Energy Agency. We do not believe that the full Danish approach can or should be replicated identically, but we hope that some aspects may provide a source of inspiration and illuminate what is possible from a policy perspective. We hope that this information is of use to the Committee and would be happy to provide further information on any aspect of the Danish policy framework.
A new climate law was agreed in Denmark in 2019, resulting in the 2020 Climate Action Plan. The Climate Action Plan targets a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of 70% by 2030 compared to 1990, alongside the long-term goal of transforming the Danish energy supply to become independent from fossil fuels by 2050 (reaching 50% renewables by 2030). While substantial progress has been made in reducing energy consumption to date (see figure 1 below), almost 40 percent of Denmark’s total energy consumption is still related to buildings, accounting for roughly 23% of emissions, and opportunities exist for further savings.
Production of building materials and building processes account for roughly a further 10% of CO₂ emissions. New buildings (built in 2015 or later) currently account for about 2.6% of the building stock, and although this is a small proportion of the total, ensuring that new builds meet high standards of performance and sustainability is regarded as a high priority. Danish industry estimate that the emissions associated with production of building materials and building processes could be reduced by 50% in 2030 through increasing focus on design and use of building materials alone.
Figure 1: heated area and energy consumption for heating in Denmark (source - Statistic Denmark)
Danish building regulations are subject to revision every five years, and require increasing reductions in energy demand in new buildings, as well as for conversions and renovations of existing buildings. The current building regulations (BR18) focus on annual energy consumption and the overall building performance, including overall targets for energy performance, and prescriptive requirements for U-values, air tightness, ventilation and shading and heat balance of windows. The requirements ensure that the building itself is as energy efficient as possible while also providing good indoor air quality, adequate ventilation, use of energy sources with low carbon and use of renewable energy if possible. The combination of general performance targets and prescriptive requirements helps provide developers with flexibility in meeting the requirements of the regulations, while also maintaining stricter performance levels in specific areas.
BR18 includes a requirement to use renewable energy, subject to a cost-effectiveness criterion, which considers whether the building owner will save more money in the long term than was used to invest in the measure upfront. For electricity, this incentivises the installation of PV panels, and for heat, connection to district heating or the use of heat pumps or biomass boilers. Installation of oil boilers is not permitted in new buildings under these regulations.
Connection to heat networks is also encouraged via the use of primary energy factors. The factors are designed to favour connection to a heat network and represent the efficiency of the production of energy (in Denmark almost all heat network are supplied from combined heat and electricity plants, surplus from industry and alike where the heat is seen as a “waste-product”, and thermal solar heating). Presently approximately 65% of Danish buildings are connected to a district heating network and latest forecasts put the share of renewable supply at roughly 80% by 2025.
Since 2008, the building codes have also included a voluntary class for energy, which effectively targets a more ambitious level of energy performance. The introduction of the voluntary energy class has served as a look forward showing the requirements that are likely to be incorporated in future building codes. Table 1 shows the development in the energy requirements and the voluntary energy classes since 2008. This use of voluntary building classes makes the building industry aware of future requirements and ensures that they are prepared for stricter energy requirements when new building codes come into force. The voluntary classes have also accelerated the development of increasingly more energy efficient components, which are not only beneficial for energy reduction in new buildings but also for energy renovation of existing buildings.
Building code version
Voluntary energy classes
Low energy class 1
Low energy class 2
Low energy class 2015
Building class 2020
Renovation class 1
Renovation class 2
Table 1: Energy classes and voluntary energy classes for new buildings in the Danish Building Codes from 2008, 2010, 2015 and 2018. BR18 includes voluntary energy renovations classes for existing building. ‘A’ is the heated floor area of the building. The performance figure includes energy for heating, production of hot water and electricity for pumps and fans. For non-domestic buildings the electricity consumption for lighting is also included in the figure.
Building Code BR18 also introduced a voluntary energy class for renovation of buildings in order to encourage building owners to perform more thorough energy renovations.
In 2019, the Danish Government announced the creation of 13 ‘climate partnerships’ – cooperation between Government and the business community – for sectors across the economy. Each partnership has considered how their sector can help contribute towards Denmark’s ambitious goal of reducing emissions by 70% by 2030. The construction sector produced a report with five key recommendations on how emissions can be reduced by 5.8 million tonnes of CO2 per year:
With regard to incorporating carbon accounting, the climate partnership suggested a range of initiatives, alongside specific requirements for CO2 emissions in building regulations, including: incorporating life cycle analyses in tender material; fossil free construction sites; reduction of material consumption and CO2 emissions in design; and development of a transparent data set for use by industry.
The Danish Parliament subsequently agreed a National Strategy for Sustainable Construction in March 2021. The strategy includes many of the proposals put forward by the climate partnership for construction, introducing a suite of initiatives targeting climate-friendly construction and high quality, durable buildings, as well as increasing focus on resource & energy efficient construction and operation. It also includes initiatives designed to reduce demolition of buildings where possible.
The strategy outlines the introduction of a sustainability requirement in building regulations in the form of a requirement for the total CO2-eq emissions from the building during the life span of a building (construction – CO2 embedded in materials and transport of materials, operation, and maintenance). This will be introduced in the 2023 building regulations for buildings with a floor area greater than 1000 m², alongside a number of other requirements designed to improve building performance and quality (see Annex A for a full list of requirements which are expected to be introduced in BR23). In 2025, the requirements will be tightened and introduced across all buildings, with stricter requirements introduced again in 2027 and 2029.
Table 2 below summarises the timetable for introduction of sustainability requirements and the tentative approach to CO2 emission limit levels:
Two year trial of the sustainability class
2023 – BR23
Requirement in the building code
LCA calculations required
Voluntary CO2 class
LCA calculations required
New building above 1000 m2
New building below 1000 m2
Table 2: possible development of the requirement and voluntary CO2 classes in the Danish Building Code.
As per the table above, prior to their introduction in the building regulations, the sustainability requirements will be tested through a trial. The trial will cover all the new requirements planned for introduction in the 2023 Building Regulations, including incorporation of life-cycle assessments (LCA) and life-cycle costs (LCC). The aim of the trial is to make sure the right requirements are introduced in 2023. The trial is currently underway and will run until 2022, involving around 30 projects from across the buildings sector (including a number of different types of domestic and non-domestic buildings). Projects received funding to participate in the trial and this will cover part of the cost of obtaining the analyses, advice and documentation needed to meet the requirements. Early findings are already becoming available, for example, it has been noted that the current approach to documenting the LCA & LCC requirements is time-consuming and will require simplification prior to implementation.
The National Strategy for Sustainable Construction outlines a number of further initiatives to support sustainable construction and the phasing in of CO2 limits & life cycle assessments. While Danish industry is used to the progressive tightening of energy measures, this will be the first time sustainability requirements have been required, and a number of initiatives in the strategy have the further aim of supporting industry with this transition. Some of the more relevant initiatives are outlined below, and a full bullet-point list of the initiatives is provided at the end of this document (Annex B).
Given that the Strategy for Sustainable Construction was only recently agreed, much of the detail on how the construction industry will be supported to improve sustainability and introduce life cycle analyses will be worked out over the next two years. Relevant ministries across the Danish Government are also evaluating proposals from the climate partnership, which do not currently form part of the Strategy for Sustainable Construction. We would be happy to provide further details on these initiatives as they are developed, with the Committee or any other body.
Annex A: Full list of requirements expected to be introduced in the 2023 Building Regulations (BR23)
Annex B: -Initiatives in the National Strategy for Sustainable Construction:
 climate-partnership-construction-report-march-2020-bat-kartellet.pdf (frinet.dk) (in English)
 Endelig aftaletekst - Bæredygtigt byggeri - 5. marts 2021.pdf (im.dk) (in Danish only)