The fifth session of the roundtable had the format of a joint expert group workshop. The purpose was to give more space for discussion among stakeholders. Previous sessions have focused on cross-cutting themes common to all expert groups and all building types. The joint workshops will focus individually on different building types namely residential buildings, non-residential buildings, industrial buildings and urban infrastructure. A plenary roundtable will follow in June where these workshops will be evaluated and the proposed measures will be commented on and subsequently endorsed.

The first workshop focused on apartment buildings, the topics for discussion are listed in the meeting agenda.

The meeting was opened by the President of ZSPS, Mr. Pavol Kováčik. He drew attention to the fact that big changes are waiting for us in the construction sector, not only in legislation but also in construction production. The revision of the EPBD brings new trends to the construction industry, especially the emphasis on energy savings. At the same time, it brings great pressure to speed up processes in the renovation of buildings.

Then Ján Magyar from SIEA presented new trends in the construction industry and requirements for buildings within the EPBD revision and the Fit-4-55 package. He concluded by highlighting the role of the Green Deal for Buildings project to propose measures to achieve the objectives set by the EPBD and, in particular, how to finance them efficiently. Mr. Doctor from ViaEuropa recalled another trend, namely the reduction of the use of natural gas in households (family and apartment buildings), mainly due to the disconnection from Russia, the reduction of dependence on fossil fuels, but also the harmful effects on health, especially in cooking. For example, in the Scandinavian countries and Norway there is a ban on connecting new buildings to gas connections.

The Green Deal for Buildings measures will hit the EU programming period from 2028 at the earliest, so we need to be ready for this and have a stockpile of measures to help implement good solutions to accelerate the pace of building renewal.

The first part of the discussion focused on financial sustainability in the housing sector. The moderator of this part, Mr. Plško, pointed out that with the current housing stock there is also a significant decline due to non-investment in their renewal. 70% of the residential buildings have already been renewed. The ensuing discussion covered the topics of the other two parts as well, below are summaries of the points and suggestions that emerged from the discussion:

  • Develop a national plan for financing sustainability in the housing sector. Sustainability is considered in terms of CO2 emissions.
  • Housing shortage – the housing shortage can be met either by building new housing or by renovating existing or disused/uninhabited buildings, such as hostels, dormitories. In this case, the owner is the local government, so it is important to work with them. It is important to map these buildings and find a use for them.
  • Maintenance of existing apartments – leads to extension of the life of the building, its necessary to finance it, to improve the control of the use and maintenance of buildings, to define the basic rules of maintenance and use of apartment buildings.
  • Building capacity for investors/developers to achieve the required quality of renovation and construction of new housing. There is also a need to improve the quality of work of contractors and designers.
  • Development of rental housing (currently less than 4% of the total number of apartments) – especially in the regions as the overall construction of housing is geographically unbalanced, especially in terms of rental housing:
    • Housing affordability varies from year to year.
    • Private capital involvement needed.
    • Different categories/standards of rental housing, not only as social housing but also as higher standard housing.
    • Determination of land suitable for the construction of residential buildings.
    • Adaptation of municipal land use plans for the development of rental housing, identify suitable sites for construction – Municipal zoning plans block the construction of rental housing. Possible sites are being bought up by developers and private companies.
  • Setting sustainable building standards for financing purposes – How to help financial institutions verify a sustainable building? There is a sustainable building in the taxonomy, but the financial institution does not have the experts to verify the sustainability requirements. An energy certificate could be used, but it does not have all the necessary data for verification, it does not meet the requirements of the taxonomy. A standard/checklist needs to be created on what the bank has to verify and where it can get the information from to verify the sustainability of the buildings.
  • Ensure that banks and financial institutions have access to energy certificates or, in the future, digital log books.
  • Collective forms of investment in housing – Establish real estate funds (dividend funds) that are able to generate income over their lifetime and are focused on rental housing, income focus.
  • Until now, rental housing made no sense because it had no chance to compete with cheap mortgages, so developers preferred to sell. Increased interest in commercial means for rental housing is expected.
  • The government should initiate the project part (for the initial phases) of the investment – The government should initiate the investment by financing the initiation phases of the projects and play the role of indicating prospective projects.
  • Demographics vs. affordable housing structure.
  • The 15 minutes city trend – creating urban districts that have all vital institutions and infrastructure within a 15-minute walk.
  • Reverse procurement, green public procurement.
  • Simplification of subsidy mechanisms – over-complexity of conditions, lack of information which makes subsidies inaccessible to ordinary people, helping people with initial investments in renovation (system of payments in tranches).
  • Use design and build system in public procurement.
  • Mapping of apartment buildings through the use of drones with thermal imaging cameras to find structural defects and insulation defects/heat leaks (e.g., I Have a Drone Association).
  • Have the condition of mapping structural defects in the renovation and its financing.
  • MEPS – may represent an interference with economic activity, e.g. a building must meet a certain energy class if it is to be rented out. It is better to invest now in renovating the building with a view to decades in order to keep the business running and the building rented out. In the UK, a similar system is active.