Research into the introduction of a mandatory water label for homes

There will be a study into the introduction of a mandatory water label for homes and buildings. Minister Mark Harbers (Infrastructure and Water Management, VVD) writes this in a letter to the House of Representatives. Harbers follows a proposal from a group of experts who have been thinking about measures against damage and nuisance caused by a lot of rain and high water in the past year. A mandatory water label, analogous to the current energy label, should confront the Dutch with the facts when it comes to the risks of water.

The proposal is in the opinion You can’t prevent, you can prepare of the so-called ‘policy table flooding and high water’, which was drawn up in response to last year’s flood in Limburg. More than 140 millimeters of rain fell on a large scale in two days. Tens of thousands of people were evacuated and the damage in the Netherlands was estimated at around 450 million euros. According to the experts, the Netherlands is “not yet well prepared” for extreme amounts of precipitation. “We will see this type of extreme precipitation, and it is expected to be even more extreme, in the future more often in the Netherlands,” the advice says.

also watch the images of the flooding in South Limburg last summer

According to the water boards in particular, a water label is a suitable means of making the Dutch aware of the influence of water on their environment at an important moment in their lives, such as when purchasing a home. It is not yet clear what such a water label should look like in practice. Some municipalities have already experimented with it, such as Rotterdam. In recent years, the city has increased the score of the number of homes that would have “no increased risk of flooding” during extreme precipitation, by installing rainwater sewers and extra water storage. This mainly concerned the surroundings of the houses; properties of the buildings themselves, such as a lot of glass that can quickly make a building hot, were not included in the score.

Risks of climate damage

The knowledge center Dutch Green Building Council (DGBC) advocates a broader approach. This foundation is working on an unequivocal method to provide real estate investors in particular with insight into the extent to which their buildings and homes are at risk of climate damage in all kinds of areas. “Financial supervisors, among others, want to know about the risks in real estate portfolios,” says knowledge manager Jan Kadijk of DGBC. Kadijk thinks a mandatory label for homeowners is a “very good idea”. But: “Then do it for all climate risks, including heat and drought or the risk of subsidence.” The label must also provide a perspective for action: “What can be improved, how can we continue to use this building in a safe and healthy way?” The introduction of a label does not solve another problem; that houses are built in places, such as low-lying polders, that are less suitable for this. Kadijk: “People continue to build happily in the wrong places.”

The fact that construction is apparently being done in the wrong places is also one of the arguments against the introduction of such a label for the Home Owners Association. “New-build buyers must be able to trust that zoning plans have been carefully considered, in particular about where construction can and cannot be done, or that measures have been taken to make living in those areas safe,” said the spokesperson. “The problem is that unfortunately people are building in unsuitable places. More awareness and protective measures are good and necessary.”

Existing homes

A water label is also “not a good idea” for existing homes, because it places the risks and liability “unilaterally with the seller”, according to Vereniging Eigen Huis. “The standard purchase contract already contains a normal risk distribution; the seller has an obligation to notify if water problems are known and the buyer has an obligation to investigate. This means that if someone wants to buy a home in a high-risk area, the buyer can be expected to inform himself about the risks that occur and are known there.”

The advice contains 21 proposals to limit the damage caused by waterlogging and flooding, from better administrative preparation for a crisis to ‘climate-robust’ recovery after damage, and more cooperation with neighboring countries.

Read also: The Netherlands was surprised, is the water management in order?

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