November 03, 2023
Faced with the climate challenge, we have seen a growing awareness of the need to renovate our buildings. These expectations are legitimate, as the residential sector accounts for over 30% of our energy consumption and 10% of our greenhouse gas emissions. It is therefore one of the priorities of the national climate agenda, with a target of 500,000 renovations per year to achieve a low-energy building stock by 2050.
Against this backdrop, we can legitimately wonder about the consequences of these public policies on the sale of heritage properties, such as castles and manor houses, which are presented as energy-hungry. On the occasion of the Salon International du Patrimoine Culturel, to be held in Paris from November 2 to 5, 2023, the Mercure Forbes Global Properties group, a specialist in heritage real estate, answers all these questions and warns about the Energy Performance Diagnostic (EPD) system.
Continued interest in heritage real estate
In 2022, 66% of Mercure Forbes Global Properties Group customers were looking for heritage properties, castles, manor houses and 21% for a quiet, spacious property, while 114 castle acquisitions were made during 2022. For the first half of 2023, the Group has achieved … sales and has in its portfolio more than half of the heritage properties available on the châteaux market. Old buildings, which account for a third of France’s housing stock (just over 10 million units), continue to attract investors. The challenge is to renovate this habitat while preserving its heritage value.
ECD, a perilous challenge for built heritage
A delicate balance between preserving history and adapting to today’s energy challenges. Olivier de Chabot, Managing Director of Groupe Mercure Forbes Global Properties, an expert in the development of historic residences, wishes to draw attention to the limitations and inadequacies of Energy Performance Diagnostics (EPD) when applied to built heritage. France has set itself ambitious targets in terms of energy renovation. The government has placed this imperative at the heart of its ecological planning. However, particular attention needs to be paid to older buildings. Indeed, energy renovation work cannot be carried out in a disorganized or uniform way, as old buildings are unique in many respects, whether in terms of their materials, design or architecture… In view of all these specific features, old buildings need to be covered by an appropriate scheme that takes into account their cultural and heritage interest.
However, current tools are inadequate, as confirmed by the conclusions of the report by the Senate’s “Heritage and Ecological Transition” information mission.
Proposals from heritage associations
This parliamentary work echoes the concerns expressed by heritage associations in an open letter addressed to the government on November 18, 2022. Although they subscribe to the orientations of ecological planning, they are concerned about the threats posed by energy renovation work on older built heritage. They advocate a more balanced approach that respects historical heritage. To reconcile these two objectives, they put forward three proposals to be implemented as soon as possible:
The definition of a specific regime for traditional buildings based on the date of construction (before 1948) or the criteria of decree n°2017-919 of May 9, 2017 ;
A moratorium on the current EPD: developed without consultation with the Ministry of Culture, the calculation methods are uniform whatever the building. In the midst of the housing crisis, this poses a risk of housing vacancy and, in the longer term, jeopardizes our heritage.
The introduction of an “old building” EPD adapted to this heritage. This would take into account the actual energy performance of the building, based on a global approach integrating construction materials, uses, architectural details, the building’s summer thermal comfort, its heritage and architectural value, its relationship with its environment and the amortization of its carbon cost.
Mercure Forbes Global Properties recommendation on ECD
Olivier de Chabot points out that ECDs do not take sufficient account of the heritage and cultural dimension of these homes. “Imposing the same energy evaluation criteria on a contemporary house as on an 18th-century château is not only simplistic, but can also lead to inappropriate, even damaging, recommendations for the preservation of architectural heritage. Historic homes, by their very nature, have architectural features and materials that make them unique. However, the current process of energy assessment through EPDs often fails to take these particularities into account, leading to results that are often inappropriate and distort the reality of the energy performance of these emblematic buildings”.
The Mercure Forbes Global Properties Group is therefore calling for a thorough review of energy assessment methods, particularly for heritage properties. Olivier de Chabot argues for a more nuanced approach that takes into account the specificities of historic homes, while encouraging the transition to sustainable, environmentally-friendly energy solutions.
The Mercure Forbes Global Properties Group would like to engage in a dialogue with the relevant authorities, energy experts and players in the heritage sector to develop standards and recommendations that are better suited to preserving these architectural gems while integrating contemporary energy issues.
Implementing energy-efficiency measures can help preserve heritage by limiting its environmental impact while ensuring its long-term survival. “It’s a delicate balance, but one that’s necessary to reconcile preservation of the past with a commitment to a more sustainable future,” adds Olivier de Chabot, Managing Director of Mercure Forbes Global Properties.
Older buildings affected by rising energy costs
According to a study by Mercure Forbes Global Properties, 44% of properties and châteaux for sale have oil-fired heating. However, since the start of the energy crisis, inflationary pressure has intensified: the price of fuel oil has risen from €876 per 1,000L in September 2021 to €1,340 per 1,000L in October 2023 (+53%). At this stage, the Mercure Forbes Global Properties group has not observed any sales cancelled due to an excessive renovation budget. However, its agents remain vigilant to the context of energy price tensions and materials shortages that may affect real estate prices.
Purchasers are anticipating the need for energy-efficient renovations in their real estate projects, and are increasingly incorporating this dimension into their negotiations, as the professionals at Mercure Forbes Global Properties have observed. “Since the beginning of the year, we’ve observed a greater interest in energy issues among the customers we’ve accompanied, which wasn’t the case before the start of the crisis. Our customers are paying close attention to the energy renovation work they would need to undertake in order to change their heating system, or to energy bills that could be substantial. This is an argument they take into account when negotiating the price”, analyses Olivier de Chabot.
Energy renovation: a complex project requiring customized support
For Mercure Forbes Global Properties, thermal comfort in a château is essential. This work is not only a constraint, but also an opportunity to be seized. Financial incentives and subsidies are available to make this transition accessible and acceptable to all. Nevertheless, according to a study by Demeures Historiques, 72% of work projects in heritage properties do not benefit from financial support. Purchasers regret a lack of information and a lack of understanding of the schemes available. This is why the Mercure real estate group intends to meet investors’ expectations by helping them with their projects.
The energy crisis: between constraints and opportunities
For Olivier de Chabot, Managing Director of Mercure Forbes Global Properties, inflation in energy costs is not inevitable. It can even be seen as a catalyst for change: “the world of châteaux knows how to adapt. The problems associated with heating in heritage properties are not new, and many owners had anticipated a rise in energy prices. The market remains buoyant, and this crisis may ultimately be an opportunity for chateau owners to consider energy renovation work that will enable them to reduce their energy consumption and, ultimately, their bills. But more than that, a renovated château is an opportunity to merge tradition and modernity, making it a lasting investment for future buyers. Imagine living in a residence that exudes history while benefiting from contemporary conveniences: a rare living experience that combines the elegance of the past with modern luxury.
About Mercure Forbes Global Properties
Since 1936, Mercure Forbes Global Properties has been offering the most comprehensive selection of French real estate. From charming houses and châteaux to country estates, urban and contemporary real estate, the Mercure Forbes Global Properties group offers more than 1,000 authentic or exceptional properties for sale throughout France, including 200 châteaux. With 20 locations throughout France and an international team, the group is committed to Properties of Excellence, meeting the demands of high-end French and foreign customers.
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