Spain’s new building code requires all new, remodeled and public buildings to install solar panels.
On March 17, 2006, Spain approved one of the most advanced sustainable construction legislations in the world, according to the European Commission, by approving the regulation that obligates all new construction, remodels and public buildings, to include solar panels for hot water.
“Spain is the first European country to make the implementation of solar thermal energy obligatory in new and refurbished buildings. We are confident that other countries will follow the Spanish example.”
The Spanish Technical Building Code (Real Decree 314/2006, of March 17th) applies to all public buildings of the different administrations of the State, to all new construction and to those that are remodeled beginning in October of 2006. The buildings must be equipped with solar panels to heat hot water and heated swimming pools, for those that have them.
Since October 2006, it is now obligatory in Spain to install photovoltaic panels in superstores, shopping centers, ships, administrative buildings, hotels, hospitals and conference centers for those more than 3,000 square meters.
As stated in April 2006 by José Fernández San José, technical director of the solar panel company Isofotón and president of the Solar Thermal Energy Association (ASIT), in the next four years, Spain will install more than four million square meters of solar panels. In this way, it would be able to reach the five million predicted for 2010, according to the objective established in the Renewable Energies Plan.
The European Solar Thermal Industry Federation (ESTIF) touts the Spanish regulation as simply planning for the future. “New buildings planned today will be still in use when oil and gas have become more and more scarce and expensive.
Solar thermal, which s already today one of the most cost-effective energy generation technologies, will replace large amounts of fossil fuel and should be integrated into buildings at the time of construction so as to avoid the additional retrofitting costs.”
According to the journalist Inmaculada G. Mardones in a report for the newspaper El País, “the first major problem with establishing the use of panels in construction is their architectural integration.
Architects specialized in bio-climatic buildings barely exist”. In the same report, the architect Joaquín Grau assures that “historically, homes were all bio-climatic, until that tradition was broken 50 years ago.”
The Institute for the Diversification and Savings of Energy calculates that every average home (four people, around 100 square meters) will need one to two square meters of solar panels; an installation that implies an expense of 600 to 2,000 euro, amortizable in less than ten years.
The Technical Building Code outlines in its introduction the motives brought the Spanish government to approve it:
“During the second half of the 20th century processes of urbanization and rapid building have established the present reality of a large part of the building patrimony of our country. (..) Nevertheless, the great quantity of new buildings built in recent years and in previous decades has not always achieved some parameters of quality adapted to the new demands of the citizens.”
“This regulation satisfies certain basic building requirements related to the security and welfare of the people, referring, as much to the structural security and protection against fires, as to the health, protection against noise, energy savings or the accessibility for people with reduced mobility.”
“This new regulation contributes in a decisive way to the development of the politics (..) of sustainability, particularly to those of the Action Plan for Energy Savings and Efficiency Strategy, and becomes an instrument of commitment (..) in environmental matters, like that of the Kyoto Protocol or the Göteborg Strategy.”
For more information about the Código Técnico de la Edificación, on the website of the Spanish Housing Ministery