In order to achieve long-term targets for energy savings and emission reductions, substantial savings will be needed from existing buildings. For example, a recent analysis for the USA examines aggressive strategies to cut carbon emissions in half by 2040 and finds that in order to achieve this emission reduction target, more than half of existing buildings will need comprehensive energy efficiency retrofits. Germany is targeting an overall primary energy consumption reduction of 50% in 2050 including increasing building renovation rate to 2% per year. In France, ambitious targets have also been set for existing buildings: 50% reduction of primary energy consumption in 2050 compared to the 2012 level. Multiple countries have realized the importance of comprehensive building retrofits and have begun to adopt policies to spur these improvements. For example, Germany is emphasizing grants and loans through the KfW Development Bank, complemented with building and heating system labels, a new “heating check” programme, and possible technical renovation requirements. France has established a goal of bringing all buildings up to “A” performance level (on their A–G scale) by 2050 in order for them to be sold or leased, with lower performance levels required as soon as 2020. In the USA, the focus has been on a combination of rating and disclosure of energy use, financing, and technical assistance. Focused community approaches show promise.
This paper summarizes the efforts, successes and challenges, future directions, and savings of building retrofit policies in the three countries. The authors conclude by contrasting the three countries and discussing areas of opportunity for these and other countries.