Covenants and building regulations: a twin track approach to improving the energy performance of Dutch buildings
The Netherlands traditionally enjoyed the term ‘front-runner’ in terms of environmental policy with early documents such as the 1989 National Environmental Policy Plan recognized as one of the ‘first and most comprehensive policy programmes towards sustainable development’ (Liefferink, 1998: 86). Alongside this, the Dutch government received frequent praise for promoting sustainable building (Beatley, 2000; Bossink, 2002), for being an early adopter of performance-based regulation and for including a range of stakeholders in policy design and implementation. Creativity and innovation in design and construction have attracted international recognition (Ouroussoff, 2007; Gauzin-Müller and Favet, 2002), as have results of tackling priority areas, such as construction waste (Rovers, 2008). Despite this status and the position of sustainable building on the political agenda for two decades, a common assertion is that it has yet to become mainstream practice (Priemus, 2005; Moss et al., 2005; Van Bueren, 2009). Nearly a decade of debate surrounding how sustainability can be measured means that the environmental chapter of the National Building Decree1 remains empty. Attracting even more attention is that energy efficiency, the enduring theme of the sustainable building debate, has yet to fully infiltrate the building sector in general and the existing building stock in particular.