HQE certification was initially introduced as a standard for existing properties as well as new office and school buildings, but is now applicable to all non-residential new, renovated and existing buildings. As with other certification systems, there is a separate rating system for single-family houses and larger residential buildings. The certification is intended to encourage builders and planners to develop, modernise or operate buildings with maximum comfort and minimum environmental impact. For quality assurance purposes, an assessment is carried out by an independent expert (auditor) after the project has been commissioned, planned and completed, or during operation. On the basis of this assessment, the building is certified as Très Performant, Performant or Base. The certification bodies are Certivea for non-residential buildings, districts or infrastructure projects and Cerqual for residential buildings.
The categories applied to every HQE building certification (HQE Bâtiment) include energy, water, materials, waste, climate action, adaptation to climate change, health, well-being and project management. HQE sustainable building certification (HQE Bâtiment Durable) goes beyond this by addressing additional aspects such as circularity, biodiversity, inclusive design, the local economy and life cycle costs. The EU Taxonomy criteria were incorporated into the certification system in the most recent update.
HQE certifications are mainly used in France. At present, there are more than 5,800 HQE-certified projects in a total of 22 countries.