“Sustainable housing solutions present economical benefits which can be seen in the show term of 2 to 6 years” - Nuno Fidelis, Consulting Architect

Home Sustainability Legislation in Portugal

Although Portuguese legislation has established rules in building acclimatisation, which look to encumber the cost of homes between 2% to 4% in the total purchase value, this has not yet helped in sensitising the purchaser. In most cases, the goal, in the purchasers perspective, is to save in the overall cost, sometimes disregarding the future costs involved.

In terms of sustainable efficacy, if renewable energy sources are not available (i.e. solar panels, energy battery storers) the most appropriate methods to be thought of in the construction phase are the incorporation of natural ventilation and underfloor heating, which always imply extra costs, predicted at more or less €42 p/sqm.

Sensitising the Housing Buyer Market

One of the problems put forward by Nuno Fidelis, an architect who works as a real estate consultant, seems to be that HVAC is only a money saving solution when discussing renewable energy solutions for properties. Further to the cost in the implementation of these in the project (2-4%), the economic benefit is only availed to if the building client is the end consumer.

However, if the investment has an end goal of re-sale it will not be the seller who reaps this profit, which can be noted in the short term of 2 to 6 years. The seller sees benefits in a higher energy certification and perhaps a higher selling end price. They will not take advantage of the sustainable solutions put in place in terms of monthly billing efficacy, for example. As has been noted throughout the years, the consumer has not been sensitised to this and this factor no longer becomes a priority.

Fidelis suggests that the issue does not lie solely in the current and future new-builds, but essentially in homes built prior to these. This situation worsens in houses built in the past century, where malpractices were serious and at many times, when looking to flip these projects, the investment roll-over matters most, disregarding simple solutions for an energetically efficient end product.

Changes Introduced by the European Union

The president of the Portuguese Association of Mediation Real Estate Professionals and Corporations (APEMIP) confirms that the real estate market has not yet given great importance to sustainable living and this seems to be regarded as a new issue, for which the buying consumer has not been made aware of its importance. This reinforcement has neither come from the real estate market, nor the Portuguese Government.

It could be said that the real changes need to come all the way up the pyramid, from the European Union and then trickled down to Government representatives. Funds could be redirected by the EU, specifically allocated to building a sustainable residential housing future. Funds which respond to rigorous criteria, that go beyond the inclusion of underfloor heating and natural ventilation.

If we were to assume the adaptation and further incorporation of electric cars on our highways and streets, the initial incentives came from the EU and then were further monitored by each individual European Government. The same approach could be taken in this industry. Perhaps future suggestions could lie in lowering yearly property tax or the sale transaction tax for sustainable housing solutions, or even “Zero Energy” emitting projects could be given approval priority.