Fire Safe Europe
2 Sept 2021
Since the 2018 Revision of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD), the EU Member States have been requested to submit their national Long Term Renovation Strategy (LTRS) to the European Commission to improve the energy efficiency and decarbonisation of the EU building stock by 2050.
This Revision has also encouraged EU governments to use major renovations and their LTRS to address fire safety and risks related to seismic activity. In Spring 2021, 22 EU Member States had submitted their LTRS to the European Commission, and 13 had been translated into English. The LTRS are a powerful way for EU countries to show they take a proactive approach to fire risks by considering it in their LTRS policy planning. Croatia, by seizing this opportunity to tackle building fire safety both in its LTRS and in its recovery and resilience plan, which has been endorsed by the European Commission beginning of July, is positioning itself as an inspiration for the rest of the EU Member States.
Croatia’s legal apparatus already provided for strong requirements regarding fire and seismic safety in buildings. Its Building Act requests the long-term strategy to include an analysis of policies and measures contributing to healthy indoor climate, better fire and seismic protection throughout a building life cycle. Its 2020 Technical regulation also requests a project engineer to perform an analysis of the existing state of the building and to suggest improvements for investment in fire protection and seismic risks.
In 2020, Croatia went a step further in its LTRS by making fire protection measures an integral part of «comprehensive renovation». The document indeed states that such renovation should increase fire protection, ensuring a healthy indoor environment and enhancing mechanical resistance and building stability – especially for the purpose of reducing seismic risk. The national government also prepares various energy renovation programmes for 2021-2030 dedicated to family houses, multi-apartment buildings, public buildings, cultural heritage, energy poverty etc. All the programmes promote deep and comprehensive building renovation and special attention will be paid to a healthy indoor environment, fire protection and seismic risk. Furthermore, chapter 10 of the Croatian LTRS, which focuses on buildings, highlights that building renovation has a significant impact on the decarbonization and also stresses the need to report on all fire protection measures from the elimination of the risk to preventing fire and smoke spread and enabling safe rescue.
More recently, on 9 July, the European Commission gave a positive evaluation to the Croatian recovery and resilience plan, which totals 6.3 billion euros, among which €789 million will be dedicated to an important flagship area – building renovations. After severe earthquakes in 2020 and substantial destruction and losses for the country, this investment will be instrumental in recovering and improving building energy efficiency. In this context, the plan furthers the renovation process started in the past years; in particular, it emphasizes the need for effective post-earthquake reconstruction and seismic and fire safety.
The Croatian recovery and resilience plan will be a powerful tool to increase the state’s and society’s resilience to natural disasters. Similarly to the LTRS, it insists on a comprehensive renovation that does not only equal energy-efficiency measures but also better fire safety, indoor health and resistance. The Croatian’s plan reinstates that national building energy renovation programmes will pay special attention to other essential factors like fire protection.
Through its building regulation, Croatia has shown its concern to adopt holistic renovation practices and capitalised on the significant investment of money in the sector. Through its LTRS and recovery and resilience plan, Croatia plans not only to advance buildings’ energy efficiency but also their seismic and fire safety, thus increasing the national building stock resilience and its citizens’ safety. An approach that we hope will be emulated by the other EU Member States.