SPENs are becoming a point of reference in social sustainability and energy efficiency

The Renovation Summit 2022 took place on 16-17 November and it was organised by the European Affordable Housing Consortium: Sustainable Housing for Social Impact (SHAPE-EU)*, Housing Europe, European Construction, built environment and energy efficient building Technology Platform (ECTP) and Eurocities, in partnership with the European Committee of the Regions and the House of Dutch Provinces, who kindly hosted the event. The Summit brought together representatives from social and affordable housing, tenants, construction and energy companies, trade unions, and EU policymakers and funding institutions to discuss the need to fast-track innovation in the renovation of social and affordable housing districts to mitigate the current energy crisis.

The Renovation Wave brings a one in a lifetime opportunity to make our buildings less energy consuming, but also more liveable and affordable for everybody. Often building renovation works absorb all financial resources available while the social and design aspects of a district remain unfunded. However, residents’ acceptance and satisfaction are greatly influenced by other issues than energy efficiency measures like: comfort (indoor air quality, temperature, lighting and noise levels); affordability of energy and housing; access to services and amenities; availability of green space; and good architectural design. This is why the syn.ikia project was invited to participate and offer inspiring insights from its own experience through the demonstration projects.

The syn.ikia’s Uden demonstrator (NL) joined the session on ‘Housing neighbourhoods of tomorrow’ of the first day of the Summit to share their experience on how housing can become better for the environment, as well as for the tenants. Through ‘Social Beautiful’, Maaike van Orsouw, Social project manager, and Hugo de Vries, Manager real estate and sustainability at AREA Wonen explained how they needed to create a partnership to achieve their objective. The chosen solution was to collaborate with a social care provider for people with disabilities, Labyrint Zorg & Werk. The principle of the project is simple and yet efficient: select tenants-ambassadors that will, on one hand, raise awareness on what it means to live in a Sustainable Plus Energy Neighbourhood, and then also help residents with special needs to integrate into the community. ‘Not the most beautiful building in the world, but it’s beautiful because of the young people who live together in it’, said Hugo de Vries.

The presentation was followed by a panel discussion, that revolved around how the housing neighbourhoods of tomorrow will look like. Thomas van de Water and Esmay Braam, tenants of AREA Wonen, described the process of becoming a tenant-ambassador. The planning in advance is essential, but everyone needs to be prepared for some things to go differently in reality. Adaptation along the way will be crucial, like how to find new strategies to encourage all tenants to interact and be involved. Knowing each other and building trust is very important, as Erik van den Berg, social care provider at Labyrinth highlighted. Tenants also explained how the mobile app that monitored energy use urged them to reduce their consumption: ‘It became a game between tenants to have the lowest energy bill. At some point, I even tried to find out how I used 2 kWh more and how I could avoid this the next day.’

During the policy session ‘The fair energy transition trilemma – affordability, sustainability, availability’ on the second day at the CoR, participants got familiar with the methods adopted by the syn.ikia’s Salzburg demonstrator (AT), which renovated existing building stock, and with the Santa Coloma (ES) one, that is building new apartments as part of a neighbourhood regeneration plan. In the Austrian case, the audience was walked through all the steps of the renovation process. One key takeaway is that for a successful result, tenants should be involved since the beginning. From Santa Coloma de Gramenet ‘the whole life cycle of a building in the equation, including day-to-day energy consumption’ was an important lesson.

More good practices and useful conclusions will be shared as the project and the work of its demos progress. To better understand what the event was about, you can read the live blog here.

* The European Affordable Housing Consortium: Sustainable Housing for Social Impact (SHAPE-EU) is the point of reference for a socially-inclusive Renovation Wave and New European Bauhaus. Together with communities and experts on the ground, 10 dedicated partners are shaping the envisaged by the EU Affordable Housing Initiative 100 lighthouse projects by creating blueprints for a just energy transition with affordability and liveability at its heart.

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