The data dilemma: Preparing for changes in the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD)

The data dilemma: Preparing for changes in the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD)

Stephen Barrett, Whole-life Carbon Lead at the Irish Green Building Council (IGBC) joined One Click LCA for a discussion about the upcoming changes to the EPBD, what the IGBC is doing to support the industry, and what the future of decarbonization looks like.

What is the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD)?


The EPBD aims to achieve a fully decarbonized building stock by 2050, contributing directly to the EU’s energy and climate goals.

The updated EPBD, approved in March 2024, will create a clear framework and targets for reducing embodied carbon in Europe’s built environment. 

“It needs moving up the agenda I think the EPBD will do that.” 

The IGBC is co-leading Ireland’s INDICATE initiative to develop a national methodology for whole life carbon assessment (WLCA) disclosure in line with the EPBD and EN 15978.

The current data challenges in building LCA assessment comparisons

The main challenge for LCA professionals in getting the headline number is the lack of a national methodology and centralized national database. Currently, assessors are using different methodologies, different timeframes, inconsistent data, measuring a different scope, often picking irrelevant data, and are not aligned with the European-wide Level(s) framework.

Construction and infrastructure accounts for 57% of global carbon emissions and a key step in the right direction to collectively decarbonizing this sector is ensuring consistent, accurate, and comparable carbon assessments.

There is currently a “knowledge gap” and a lack of “rigor” in the way developers approach whole-life cycle assessments (WLCA), Stephen explains.

“People just want a headline number they just want to be told that this is your carbon footprint, per square meter. But there are so many questions behind that number that need to be answered that aren’t considered,” says Stephen.

The data dilemma: Preparing for changes in the Energy Performance Buildings Directive (EPBD)

What the EPBD means for Europe’s built environment

“The EPBD is primarily about renovation,” Stephen says. “But hopefully then we’ll also see that spill over into the renovation wave that we all want to see as well.”

Under the EPBD, WLCAs will be compulsory for buildings over 1000m2., from 2028, extending to all commercial buildings from 2030. There will also be a gradual introduction of minimum energy performance standards for non-residential buildings. 

The EPBD, combined with the Construction Products Regulation (CPR) and the Carbon Border Adjustment (CBAM), will help create the transparent product data needed for WLCAs. 

And there is a commercial element to the issue as well. 

“Investors are aware of the EPBD and its cost implications”, Stephen says, “So developers need to be, too. Carbon as a cost, I think, is what we’re going to see between now and 2030,” he adds. “And those who can understand it will be the people who get the business.”

Creating a national standard for Ireland’s whole-life cycle assessments

The IGBC and INDICATE are working to complete 50 WLCAs and use the data to create national benchmarks, methodology and regulations.

“What we need is a national default,” Stephen says. “A golden rule that says: ‘These are the figures, unless you prove clearly and categorically otherwise, why you should have a lower figure’.”

These defaults and methodology can then be programmed directly into industrial software, like One Click LCA, so developers can keep a “running score” of embodied carbon.

“Whole life carbon assessments tend to get done after a building is designed, when it’s difficult to make much change,” Stephen explains. By having national defaults to inform early design models, it will be easier and quicker to do and LCA when it has the greatest benefits.” 

Any developer can contribute to the scheme, by providing a whole-life carbon assessment of their project. 

Suppliers and manufacturers can also support INDICATE by creating product EPDs, and developers and designers can drive things forward by requesting product EPDs.

Who should be responsible for WLCAs? 

Stephen highlights the importance of early stage WLCAs completed by architects, or even initiated by investors.

“The earlier the assessment, the less accurate it’s going to be, but the more useful it’s going to be, because you can make changes.”

A later WLCA done by a quality surveyor is likely going to be more accurate, but at this stage, little can be changed. It is providing transparency, but not in a way that makes it useful to implement improvements and more efficient decisions.

“In the UK, from a consultant’s perspective, I think it would be great to see everyone take responsibility for LCA,” says One Click LCA consultant, Leo Poli. 

“This would encourage everyone to consider how their activity contributes to the project’s overall embodied carbon.”

Is there a case for narrowing the scope to exclude a building’s smaller components?

“It’s true that it’s the big stuff that moves the needle,” Stephen says. “Instead of spending considerable time chasing exact figures for smaller components, like sockets and sensors, ‘realistic defaults’ can be used — at least for now.”

These smaller components may not have the same level of impact for new builds, but may contribute significantly to fit-outs or refurbishments.

“The more we do assessments of all types, the more information we gather and then there might also be some data that can be transferred to a new building assessment.”

What are the main challenges adopting LCA in the Irish construction industry?

“The first challenge is education — understanding what you’re doing,” Stephen says. “The second and hardest part is getting the data from suppliers.”

“Embodied carbon calculations are straightforward in the sense that it’s quantity, multiplied by carbon factor. But you’ve got quantities of so many different things that you need to be organized in getting all your subcontractors supplying you with that quantity data – and that’s a big challenge.”

How does One Click LCA help you align to EPBD standards?

One Click LCA supports EPBD compliance by offering carbon calculations and reports that align with EN 15978 and Level(s) framework requirements. This tool enables users to perform a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of buildings, quantifying environmental impacts across the building's life cycle and identifying critical areas for improvement. 

Learn more:

Read the European Council’s official press release on EPBD update: Energy efficiency of buildings: MEPs adopt plans to decarbonise the sector

Learn more about the revised EPBD: EU Parliament approves revised EPBD — a milestone in ‘Fit for 55’ climate initiative



Find out how you can prepare for the future of decarbonisation

Talk to one of our carbon experts today.


Industry news & insights — straight to your inbox

Subscribe to One Click LCA's Carbon Experts Newsletter.