Innovation for growth >  Smart Cities > Housing Societal Challenges


With the growing pressures on society’s resources, such as energy issues, aging infrastructure and a rapidly increasing urban population, the need to transform our metropolitan areas into smart and sustainable cities will be crucial to achieving the sustainability objectives set by the European Union. These ambitious 20-20-20 targets envisage a 20% reduction in CO2 emissions, a 20% share of energy from low carbon sources and a 20% reduction in the use of primary energy through energy efficiency measures.

How can we achieve these targets in terms of the urban built environment if we don’t fully understand the nature of the challenges that we face? Let’s take a closer look at some of the challenges facing housing.

Housing Societal Challenge Areas:

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High Energy consumption and Co2 emissions

Today, about 75% of Europeans live in urban areas and consume 70% of the total energy produced. This, in turn, accounts for 75% of the EU’s total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Clearly cities make a significant contribution to the EU’s GHG emissions, which highlights their centrality to achieving the EU 20-20-20 sustainability objectives. Smart and innovative cities will need to make the best use of Europe’s great capacity for research and innovation to design new energy efficient buildings and renovate the existing stock of old buildings with innovative insulation materials and solutions that combine with ICT tools to produce and distribute Renewable Energy Sources (RES). Click here to see how chemistry is providing solutions to our energy consumption challenges.

Ageing buildings stock

There are an estimated 1.6 billion building structures in the EU-27 with a majority of them built before 1990. About 40-50% of these building structures date from before 1960 when building insulation was uncommon and sustainable living was an issue of minor concern to citizens. It is important that improving energy efficiency in Europe’s older building stock is prioritized. To achieve our targets in time we need an emphasis on the refurbishment of existing building rather than on new buildings. We need innovative high performance materials and major refurbishment programmes to boost energy efficiency in all buildings. This could provide us with a viable path to sustainable growth in the EU. Concurrently, industry must continue to innovate in high-performance and affordable solutions for renovation. Click here to see how chemistry is providing solutions to our ageing building stock challenges.

Quality of life and comfort

As the population in our cities continues to grow, urban areas are feeling the squeeze on their energy costs as they try to maintain and improve the comfort and lifestyles of their busy citizens. A sustainable Europe must provide solutions that improve and enhance the quality of life and comfort of its citizens at home, work and play. A comprehensive citizen-focused urban planning process that integrates all aspects of urban life (green spaces, transportation schemes, housing) will be an important step towards achieving this goal. Click here to see how chemistry is providing solutions to our quality of life and comfort challenges.


A sustainable Europe requires investment in our housing and a commitment to transform them into environmentally sustainable and easy to recycle structures that are attractive to live in. To ensure we make the best use of our resources, our homes should not only be energy efficient but also designed to use less energy intensive materials and built for recycling right from the start. This can be done by incorporating green and ecological processes and materials. The homes of the future should become energy independent and even net energy producers. Our homes need to shift from energy consuming structures to dwellings that use the renewable energy they produce to serve our household energy needs. Therefore, industry must develop efficient renewable energy sources and solutions to produce, store and distribute this energy. Click here to see how chemistry is providing solutions to our sustainability challenges.