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Level(s), Europe

Level(s): designing a learning tool for the European Commission’s new buildings sustainability framework

Buildings are the bedrock of our energy efficient future; but they are a major source of energy consumption – for maintenance and operation – and responsible for 36% of greenhouse gas emissions in Europe.

To move the EU towards decarbonising its building stock by 2050, the revised Energy Performance of Building Directive (EPBD) will boost asset renovation, triggering a move towards net zero across the real estate sector.

To assist the real estate sector on the journey to net zero, the European Commission has created Level(s), a framework that provides a common language for assessing and reporting the sustainability of buildings, from design to end life for a range of stakeholders including sustainability professionals, asset designers, owners and investors, as well as policymakers and public authorities.

Arup was appointed to design the e-learning programme for the framework, which will help users understand how to apply Level(s) in their work environment. Our sustainability and learning experts have also created a redesign strategy for the Level(s) learning tools –Commission’s Let’s Meet Level(s) web portal and Level(s) - Sustainable performance in buildings learning course on EU Academy.

Project Summary

5 learning projects

16sustainability indicators

>3,000learners to date

Designing an e-learning programme

To design the course, Arup brought its in-house Arup University learning specialists and sustainability professionals together with e-learning subconsultant Leo Learning. Arup’s design and policy expertise was fundamental to help translate the many concepts behind the Level(s) framework for a range of audiences, while casting it amongst larger EU initiatives like the Green Deal and the Taxonomy.


Following the overall Level(s) structure, the e-learning programme offers a series of easy to navigate modules based on six macro-objectives. The modules include 16 sustainability indicators that explain how different EU policies can interact with performance in buildings. Our specialists designed practical case studies for each module which provide ‘real life’ context for sustainability professionals, asset designers, owners and investors, as well as policymakers and public authorities.

Levels Levels

To encourage uptake, the Level(s) e-learning programme also maps out a selection of learning journeys designed around themes such as circularity, sustainable finance, resilience, global warming and occupant welfare.

Arup’s teams have also redesigned the webpages for Level(s) e-learning, hosted on the Commission’s web and on the EU Academy, to create an intuitive learning environment with a sleek outline. These learning tools host a range of resources, from videos and case studies to glossaries and quizzes.

Tying up EU policy to building performance

The sustainability indicators within each macro-objective link a building’s performance to key European initiatives on circular economy, energy, material use and waste, indoor air quality and resilience to climate change. The lifecycle Global Warming Potential (GWP) of new buildings is one of two indicators included under the first Level(s) objective, which seeks to minimise a building’s whole life carbon output.

Acting on the GWP of new buildings is vital for reducing embodied carbon emissions. Given the construction industry accounts for 50 % of Europe’s raw material extraction, implementing sustainability performance measures in this area will contribute to reducing CO2.

Level(s) enables the real estate industry to learn more about the principles behind the designing and running of sustainable buildings, creating a step change on our collective journey towards net zero. ” Susana Saiz Susana Saiz Director

Putting circular building design into practice

The Level(s) e-learning programme is designed for all the stakeholders working across a building's lifecycle in Europe. 

For building specialists and sustainability professionals, the e-learning programme provides simple sustainability criteria adaptable to all project stages, to help teams carry out accurate performance assessments in line with key EU policies. 

For policymakers and procurers, Level(s) is a useful tool to help develop and implement viable sustainable policies as well as action frameworks for tackling climate change effects. The e-learning programme also offers a clear definition of sustainable building investment to help investors, property owners, and landlords, ensuring transparency in disclosure requirements reporting.

Buildings play a vital role in our transition towards sustainable future. Designing, operating and maintaining buildings with a sustainability mindset is key to improving the carbon footprint of the real estate sector in Europe.