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European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency
News article4 August 2021

Using natural resources to improve energy efficiency in buildings

We spend most of our lives in buildings but they are responsible for 40% of the EU’s energy consumption and 36% of its greenhouse gas emissions. A LIFE Award-winning project has the keys to change this trend.

LIFE12 ENV/ES/000079
Photo: LIFE12 ENV/ES/000079

Improving the energy efficiency of buildings is critical to achieving the EU’s 2050 climate targets under the European Green Deal.  It also supports the recently launched EU Renovation Wave Strategy, which aims to ensure that renovations lead to higher energy and resource efficiency.

The LIFE REUSING POSIDONIA team used dried Posidonia oceanica seagrass as effective thermal insulation in 14 social housing units on the Balearic island of Formentera, significantly cutting emissions in the process.

We caught up with managing director Cris Ballester and project coordinator Carles Oliver Barceló from the Institut Balear de l'Habitatge (IBAVI) to find out more.

How did the project start?

In 2009, IBAVI appointed an architect to come up with a design concept for 14 environmentally friendly social housing units on the island of Formentera. We needed money to move the project forward, so we decided to apply for LIFE funding and were successful.

What problem were you addressing?

During building construction, CO2 emissions come from manufacturing materials and rubble. Emissions also come from building inhabitants using energy.

Our project focused on how buildings contribute to climate change and what can be done to adapt.

Our goal was to reduce their carbon footprint while giving local regulators and public bodies useful data to help them put measures in place to reduce resource consumption during the life cycle of buildings. We also wanted other people to be inspired and follow our approach.

What activities did you undertake?

When constructing the 14 social housing units, we used sustainable and raw materials from local artisan industries in danger of disappearing. For example, we used Posidonia oceanica seagrass as thermal insulation. We also used local recycled doors, lime mortar, marès sandstone and clay.

Together with our partners, we examined the data obtained from the construction phase and service life of the buildings.

What did this data show?

Emissions during construction fell by 60%, and waste was down by 50%. Useful energy use during the lifetime of the building was reduced by 75%.  Also, water consumption used by the tenants fell by another 60%.

Did you reach out to the public?

Yes. We ran an extensive communications campaign. This included an exhibition, a series of conferences, a book, and a documentary.

How did you feel about winning the LIFE Award for Environment?

It was amazing news and came just as Spain approved its climate change law. Our project offers a way to accomplish the goals of this new law.

What’s next for the project?

The LIFE REUSING POSIDONIA approach will be used in 900 new social housing buildings, promoted by IBAVI, across the Balearic Islands. On top of this, 167 homes under construction are using dry Posidonia seagrass as roof insulation with 200 more in the design phase. 

Photo: LIFE12 ENV/ES/000079


Publication date
4 August 2021