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Upscaling urban residential retrofit for the EU’s low carbon future: Challenges and opportunities

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With respect to the EU climate and energy goals, a major challenge for EU cities lies within retrofitting the existing urban building stock. Hereby existing buildings represent a substantial potential for both (1) energy savings and (2) renewable energy production or intake.


Substantial energy savings can be realized when buildings that were initially not or poorly insulated undergo a deep retrofit. Savings of more than 80% of the end energy needed for combined space conditioning and domestic hot water production are feasible, at least in the moderate to colder climates of the EU. If the remaining energy needs are subsequently filled in with renewable sources, the operational carbon emission reductions can reach 100%. In this case, the required level of building envelope retrofit leads however to important investment costs.


Related payback times may equally mount to decades – 30 to 50 years is a common figure. Building owners may therefore turn to less ambitious renovation works.


Given the importance of energy renovation, many EU funded projects have a focus on (residential) building retrofit and experiment with new techniques and operational procedures, financing schemes, end user engagement strategies and governance process setups. These have led to a wealth of experiences and replicable successes that deserve to be maximally disseminated.


The Smart City Information System (SCIS) follows up a group of 50 of these EU funded ‘smart cities and communities (SCC)’, ‘low-carbon energy (LCE)’ and ‘energy-efficient buildings (EeB)’ projects. Notably via its self-reporting tool, SCIS builds a view on the output of its projects in scope.