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Focus on long-term goals apartment buildings

As buildings are responsible for an average of 60% of energy consumption in the EU, it is important that all residential buildings are made climate and energy neutral by 2050, and this includes all apartment buildings. The annual average current energy consumption in residential buildings in Belgium is now 348 kWh/m2 and is 70% higher than the EU average. In 2022, we counted 4.6 million buildings with 5.6 million residential units in Belgium (source: Stabel).

The apartment buildings in Belgium are 19% of the stock, but still amount to some 233,052 buildings, with some 1,585,057 housing units. In Wallonia, there were 1 695 472 units or 17 % (2022, Stabel) with 276 853 housing units in apartment buildings. In Flanders, there are 930 044 apartments in 142 733 apartment buildings. About 72 % of the building stock is occupied by the owner.  The statistics are confirming that the Belgium's building stock is obsolete, with 15% built before 1900, 38% pre-1945, with the oldest building stock in Wallonia (48% pre-1945) and in Brussels (66% pre-1945), most of which are not insulated. However, the most recent buildings are located in Flanders with an accretion of 14 %, which in Wallonia, however, is 10 % and Brussels even only 3 %.     

However, the apartment building sector is much more complex in terms of awareness and approach to renovation than individual houses. This is because individual owners must make decisions collectively in a co-ownership. As a matter of fact, each co-owner's plot consists of a private part and a common part 

Obligations and standards

In terms of obligations and standardization, in all Belgian regions the possession of an EPB certificate is mandatory when selling and renting a home, as well as in apartment buildings. In Flanders, an EPB certificate has been mandatory for common areas since 2022. In Wallonia, a 'partial report' is mandatory for apartment buildings that have a common installation. A partial report is therefore not required for an apartment with an individual installation. In Brussels, such an obligation is foreseen via a compulsory EPB certificate for each apartment as of 2025 and a renovation plan for the common parts as of 2027 .   

A legal obligation to renovate was introduced in Flanders in 2023 for residential buildings, including apartments.  All apartments purchased from 2023 with label E or F must be compulsorily renovated to label D or better, within 5 years of purchase. That renovation is a legal obligation for every apartment purchased from 2023, even if the other apartments do not change hands. However, the renovation may require works to parts of the building owned by the community, such as the shell parts or collective heating.   

The legally required works can be decided by a simple majority (50% + 1). Refusing these works would be bad news for the other owners as well because eventually their apartment will also be sold and will be subject to the renovation obligation. Blocking the necessary energy renovation works on the common parts therefore reduces the future value of all the apartments in the building.  

As far as legal obligations to renovate are concerned, as of January 1, 2023, new owners of energy-wasting residential buildings (i.e. buildings with an EPC label E or F) will be required to substantially renovate their property. Within five years of the notarized transfer of full ownership, owners must have made the necessary efforts to have the building meet at least the conditions associated with an EPC label D, which will obviously also require a major (financial) effort.  

In Wallonia, according to the Plan Air Climat Energie (PACE) approved in March 2023, the renovation obligations of newly rented dwellings is planned to be systematically tightened. Such dwellings should have at least an F label by 2025, an E label by 2028 and a D label by 2031. (Label E is between 340 and 425 kWh/m2 and label F is between 425 and 510 kWh/m2). For rental properties, the obligation will take effect upon a change of tenant, but only from 2027 (at least an F label). With a change of ownership of a property, the new owner has 5 years to achieve the minimum energy performance level: label D from 2026 (255>340 kWh/m2), label C from 2031 (170>255 kWh/m2). 

In the Brussels region, the renovation obligation (as mentioned in the "enhanced" climate plan LKEP) is connected to the creation of an EPB certificate by 2015, which will list 5 priority works based on a personalized roadmap.  Thus, homes with EBP certificates F and G, will have to be compulsorily renovated by 2033. The goal is to obtain less than 100 kilowatt hours per square meter (Certificate C) annually by 2050. Today, the average is still 220 kWh per square meter per year.   

Part of the financing of works can come from financial incentives from the government. In Flanders, for example, 660 million euros of public funds are provided for private housing renovations (2022-2023). These funds are incentives with a new "My Renovation Premium," increased renovation premiums, an EPC label premium and an increased demolition and reconstruction premium.

Renovation master plan

The Flemish government is now supporting apartment owners to draw up a renovation master plan. Such a plan helps in the process of preparation for a renovation with all parties and offers support to owners and syndicates who have limited knowledge about this. For apartment buildings as of 15 residential units, there is support up to €12,000 (maximum 60% of the cost price) for drawing up a renovation master plan. At VEKA, a framework contract has been concluded with a number of study bureaus that will be able to draw up such a renovation master plan.   

A renovation master plan consists of two major parts: a maintenance plan that runs over several years and is based on the condition of the building and a sustainable renovation scenario that will make it possible to achieve the 2050 objectives. It involves renovating the facades and roof and installing a sustainable heating system. Optional solutions can also be sought for charging electric vehicles in apartment buildings. A simple majority is required in the association of co-owners of an apartment building to launch a renovation master plan. To carry out the works effectively, a two-thirds majority is required.

In addition to professional help in drawing up a master plan, co-owners will soon be able to receive additional free coaching in the run-up to the renovation. This involves providing insight into the renovation process, advice on all renovation options and guidance on financing possibilities and the range of premiums available. The amount for coaching is a maximum of 7,500 euros per apartment building, 700 euros for the first five residential units and 350 euros for the additional residential units.  

Co-owners can request an online quote for a renovation master plan. That application must include as much ¬information as possible about the ¬building, such as the location and position of the building, the number of residential units and urban planning specifications. Upon receipt of the application, VEKA organises a mini-competition among the participating engineering companies within three weeks and then delivers the most advantageous proposal to the co-owners. A contract is then signed between the engineering company and the co-owners and the drafting of the renovation master plan begins. That plan is delivered up to six months later.  

The engineering company applies for the grants of up to 12,000 euros including VAT from VEKA and only charges the Association of Co-owners for the balance. About 200 renovation master plans will be supported between now and the end of 2025, and in the longer term a more global action plan for the renovation of apartment buildings will be set up. For more information on the renovation master plan 

Presentation of Renovation master plan (in Dutch)
More information on Renovation master plan (in Dutch)