What is RT2020 and how will it affect you?

April 11, 2022
Climate Change
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Image Source: https://www.artisancentral.fr/

What is RT2020?

RT2020 is the latest update to a set of building regulations laid out by the French government to reduce carbon emissions. It builds on the concept of reducing energy waste, by incorporating new obligations to increase renewable energy production, too.

It was due to come into effect at the end of 2020, but due to the global pandemic, the updated regulations won’t be applied until the summer of 2021. In the meantime, anyone involved in the construction of a building should apply the ‘thermal standard’ set out in RT2012 – and anyonewith an interest in French property should get clued up as to how the updated (and much further reaching) regulations could affect them in the future.

Errm, what’s RT2012?

If you’re an artisan working in the area of construction, then you’ll know the answer to this already – or at least, you should! RT2012 is all about reducing energy waste. It specifies that all new private buildings must consume no more than 50 kWh / m² per year – which means putting lots of thought into things such as heating, cooling, hot water production, lighting, fans and pumps. This standard of low energy-use buildings (also known as ‘bâtiment de basse consummation’, or BBC) also applies to private buildings that are being renovated.

The rules are different for new public buildings, however; in 2018, an update to the thermal regulations (or ‘réglementation thermique’) added a new obligation for them to be based on the principle of ‘positive energy buildings’ – that is, buildings that produce more than, or equal to, the energy than they consume. You’ll often see these kinds of buildings referred to as BEPOS (Bâtiment Energie POSitif).

So, what do the RT2020 regulations say, exactly?

With the introduction of RT2020, the principle of ‘positive energy’ will underpin the design, construction and habitation of all new buildings – i.e. both public and private. The minimum standard will be that of a ‘passive house’ – one whereby energy consumption is matched by energy production – but with the goal of becoming a positive energy building eventually. According to law firm, Thomson Reuters, the new regulations take energy efficiency to an entirely new level:

“The purpose of these new standards is to move from essentially thermal regulations to environmental regulations and to take into account greenhouse gases throughout the building’s lifecycle, that is from construction to demolition.”

What this means, of course, is that we also need a deep shift in the mindset of the individuals and citizens who use buildings. As one French renewable energy firm points out, “technological developments which reduce the consumption of our equipment are not sufficient to reach the threshold of zero energy waste … it is the evolution of our behaviour (and the education of our children) that will enable us to respect the RT2020 standard.”

What else do the new regulations say?

Somewhat confusingly, the new regulations allow for greater total energy use than the current ones (100 kwh / m² / year compared to 50kwh). But they also require as many households as possible to produce enough of their own energy to meet their needs and more. In effect, the focus has moved from minimising energy waste, to increasing energy production. As such, every BEPOS house must have the capacity to produce enough energy to exceed the inhabitants’ use of five distinct utilities: heating, lighting, hot water, air conditioning, and auxiliaries.

What all this means, of course, is that along with incorporating methods of saving energy, such as proper insulation, all new buildings will need to incorporate renewable energy systems for producing electricity (e.g. Photovoltaic panels, aerovolatics, and wind turbines), heating (e.g. Heat pumps, geothermal systems, solar power), hot water (e.g. Thermodynamic and solar power systems), and water (e.g. Rainwater harvesting). Such systems currently often come at a greater financial cost than more outdated ones.

What’s all this got to do with me?

Although RT2020 could be interpreted as a set of regulations that only apply to those involved with buying, renovating, or constructing a building, there’s plenty of reason for the rest of us to pay attention, too. RT2020 is essentially a vision – of a world that has been brought back from the brink of climate extinction, no less! But creating more and more buildings alone – even if they are BEPOS – isn’t going to get us to that point. Ultimately, we’ll need all our buildings, old and new, to be BEPOS. In the meantime, we need all the people who use them (or will use them) to change the way they behave inside them (e.g. switching off lights, unplugging chargers, closing shutters, defrosting the freezer, etc).

Story Source: https://www.artisancentral.fr/blog/what-is-rt2020/

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