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OVERVIEW | EU support for (deep) energy renovation of buildings

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OVERVIEW | EU support for (deep) energy renovation of buildings

Shutterstock / Ivan Liakhovenko


by Marianna Papaglastra (Sympraxis Team)



As reported by the Buildings Performance Institute Europe (BPIE), deep renovation has the potential to reduce the energy consumption of the building stock by 36% until 2030. At the same time, it can reduce fuel poverty and contribute to EU energy security, while boosting innovation and employment, and improving living conditions. However, while the potential benefits of deep renovation are clear, the decision-making process entails many challenges and is often found to be driven by factors other than a desire to improve energy efficiency. Various EU funding programmes address the challenges of building renovation, including: market uptake and the removal of non-technological barriers via the IEE programme and parts of Horizon 2020; research and innovation in Horizon 2020 and its precursor FP7; cooperation across borders supported by Interreg; energy efficiency is also one of the themes of the LIFE programme for the environment. This Overview Article presents examples of EU-funded projects which support (deep) renovation. These include support for Member States to develop national renovation strategies, and projects tailored to support specific residential or non-residential building typologies.



With a useful lifetime of more than 50 years, 75% of the existing buildings in the EU are expected to still be in use after 2050. However, the vast majority of these would need to be renovated in order to decarbonise the EU's building stock. When the European Commission carried out an evaluation of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) it found that the directive needed strengthening to better address building renovation. The Commission's proposed revision to the EPBD, published as part of the Clean Energy for all Europeans legislative proposals, would address building renovation with the following amendments:


  • integration of national long-term building renovation strategies (Article 4 of the Energy Efficiency Directive) into the EPBD;
  • a clear vision for a decarbonised building stock by 2050, set out in a national roadmap for renovation with concrete milestones and measures;
  • requirements for Member States to address energy poverty issues, as well as the mobilisation of smart financing for building renovation and, in particular, for strengthening the links between public funding for building renovation and energy performance certificates.

Since residential buildings are responsible for about two thirds of the final energy consumption of the European building stock, a major focus of the national renovation strategies will naturally be on the residential sector. Energy efficiency investments in residential buildings are often financially attractive, however ownership is very fragmented, making renovation at scale highly challenging. In addition, there is a lack of knowledge around energy performance issues, available innovative technologies and financial resources, as well as a lack of skilled professionals that would help ensure that the promised energy savings are actually achieved in practice.


Investments in the energy-efficient renovation of public buildings and other non-residential buildings, entail different challenges than those faced by the residential sector. According to the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive 2010/31/EU (EPBD), buildings occupied by public authorities and buildings frequently visited by the public should lead the way in the field of energy performance of buildings. Public buildings, i.e. buildings publicly owned, operated and/or occupied, represent about 12% of the EU building stock area. For public buildings, factors such as the building size, available management facilities and energy intensity may represent an important potential for energy efficiency investments, however, the often complicated management or procurement procedures may jeopardise their successful application in practice.


On the other hand, large commercial buildings often visited by the public, e.g. sports facilities, hotels, shopping centres, etc., share many of the benefits and challenges of both residential and public buildings.


A wide range of EU-funded projects have been tackling the principal barriers and opportunities for building renovation; selected examples are set out below.



Support for Member States to develop their national renovation strategies



The goal of the Intelligent Energy Europe (IEE) NeZeR project was to promote implementation and smart integration of NZEB renovation measures and the deployment of Renewable Energy Sources in the European renovation market through the following activities:


  • analyses of technical solutions for NZEB renovation and utilisation of RES combined with packaged solutions;
  • presentation of successfully executed NZEB renovation cases;
  • highlight of the feasibility of NZEB renovation over traditional renovation, through feasibility studies and environmental and economic assessments;
  • development of NZEB renovation city action plans and concrete guidelines for similar action plans in other European cities.


BUILD UPON, a Horizon 2020 funded collaborative community on building renovation, brought together 2,000 organisations across 13 countries under the goal of helping countries design and implement strengthened strategies for renovating their existing buildings. The project developed the so-called "RenoWiki" tool to present interesting renovation practices in each country, and dedicated a certain budget for every participating country to become acquainted with European best practice renovation initiatives.


EmBuild supports, in the framework of the Horizon 2020 programme, public authorities in Southeast European countries to prepare a long-term strategy for mobilising investment in the energy efficient renovation of the building stock. The project has identified and addresses six main barriers to this end:


  • legislative and regulatory barriers;
  • fiscal and financial barriers;
  • communication and capacity building barriers;
  • technical barriers;
  • research and development barriers;
  • strategic barriers.


Support for deep renovation of residential buildings



BEEM-UP was a Public Private Partnership collaborative project that aimed to demonstrate the economic, social and technical feasibility of retrofitting initiatives for drastically reducing the energy demand in existing residential buildings, and lay the ground for massive market uptake of such initiatives. BEEM-UP stands for Building Energy Efficiency for Massive market Uptake and involved key expertise to implement and demonstrate innovative building and energy management approaches with the overall aim to improve energy efficiency and obtain better indoor comfort conditions. The main objective was to develop and demonstrate cost-effective and high performance renovation of existing residential multi-family buildings, reducing the energy demand up to 75%. The approach was showcased through three ambitious retrofitting projects in Sweden, the Netherlands and France.



By March 2016, the IEE co-funded COHERENO project developed proposals and concepts for promising cross-sector and company business models for high efficiency refurbishment of single-family houses to NZEB. The models aimed to pave the way for refurbishment from a single source. From financing, consulting and planning, right through to implementation, COHERENO aimed to improve the quality of the construction measures by providing specific support to all stakeholders, thus increasing customer confidence and contributing to a higher market share for NZEB.



The overall strategic objective of the IEE EPISCOPE project was to make the energy refurbishment processes in the European housing sector transparent and effective. To this end, it has developed a common methodology to compare renovation rates across countries, which form the basis for monitoring the progress of renovation and assessing renovation policies. The scope of the project included:


  • residential building typologies;
  • elaboration of building stock models;
  • tracking the implementation of energy saving measures;
  • elaboration of a concerted set of energy performance indicators;
  • installation of bottom up monitoring procedures.


The Horizon 2020 4RinEU innovation project aims to minimise failures in design and implementation of deep renovation in residential buildings, manage different stages of the deep renovation process –from the preliminary audit up to the end-of-life– and provide information on energy, comfort, users’ impact, and investment performance. Its focus is threefold:


  • to provide robust technology packages to decrease net primary energy use, allowing a reduction of life cycle costs over 30 years;
  • supported by usable methodologies, improving the information flow and knowledge sharing among stakeholders;
  • feeding into reliable business models to enhance the level of confidence of deep renovation investors, increasing the EU building stock transformation rate.


Transition Zero is a Horizon 2020 funded project, aiming to establish the right market conditions for the wide-scale deep renovation homes across Europe. Based on the successful Dutch initiative "Energiesprong", it kick-starts large-scale energy refurbishment in the UK and France, using the social housing sector as a catalyst, by:


  • organising volume demand for net zero energy refurbishments;
  • introducing performance-based solution requirements on integrated refurbishment packages;
  • establishing long-term, warranted energy performance contracts;
  • improving the regulatory and financing conditions for net-zero energy refurbishments.

Transition Zero Market Development Teams have been established (in UK and FR) so that solutions can be developed. Initially, this will take place within the current financial, planning and regulatory environments as far as possible. At the same time, opportunities are being identified where a smarter combination of policy, funding and regulation could pave the way for a mass implementation of net- zero energy refurbishments. A closely related project is the Interreg-funded E=0, which shares best practice and the Energiesprong approach between France, the Netherlands, the UK and Luxembourg.



iBRoad is a Horizon 2020 funded project, aimed at exploring, designing, developing and demonstrating the concept of individual Building Renovation Roadmaps as a real driver for deep renovation across the EU. Representing an evolution of the Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) and energy audit systems, the Roadmaps will serve as a tool outlining a customised renovation plan with a long-term horizon for deep step-by-step renovation of individual buildings (iBRoad-Plan), combined with a repository of building-related information (logbook, iBRoad-Log). iBRoad is a consumer-tailored project as it supports building owners in step-by-step deep renovations, removing barriers and lock-in effects. At the same time, iBRoad will provide public authorities with real-life studies and analysis supporting long-term national strategy on deep renovation.



Supporting the renovation of public buildings



Certus, an IEE funded project, aimed to facilitate the planning and preparation of NZEB renovation projects for municipal buildings. It addressed municipalities and the public sector but may be equally useful to the ESCOs, financing entities, policy makers and to all parties interested in Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy systems integration in the building sector. The Certus portal includes information on NZEB cases studies, energy service models, innovative financing and tools to perform financial evaluations of NZEB renovation schemes, and, innovative building materials and HVAC systems.



The IEE RePublic_ZEB project aimed to assist in achieving the huge potential for energy savings associated with existing public buildings and their refurbishment towards NZEB. The core objective of the project was to define cost-benefit optimised “packages of measures” based on efficient and quality-guaranteed technologies for the refurbishment of the public building stock towards NZEB that are standardised and adopted by builders and building owners. It comprised an analysis of the public building stock and definition of reference buildings in the South-Eastern European region, an Assessment of the status quo and analysis of opportunities for refurbishing public buildings towards NZEB, a cost-benefit analysis of the “packages of measures” for this refurbishment, and Strategies and guidelines towards NZEB.



A2PBEER, an FP7 funded project, aimed at developing and demonstrating a cost-effective energy efficient retrofitting methodology for public buildings and districts. A range of innovative technologies were developed and deployed at three sites, with a view to achieving a highly efficient integrated retrofitting methodology that can be replicated throughout the European Union.



The DREEAM H2020 project provides strategies for cost-effective large-scale energy efficient renovations of social and public housing buildings. The project demonstrates a multi-building and single-owner renovation approach that can achieve a 75% reduction of total energy demand. The core of DREEAM is to identify optimal combinations of technologies, which:


  • a) can deliver highest energy reduction for a set of buildings, while at the same time
  • b) taking into consideration building owners’ financial capacity and the preferences of tenants.

The project considers interconnected energy systems including a range of energy demand reduction, renewable energy generation, energy storage and dynamic control. The initial phase of the project aims to develop an approach to evaluate and provide a decision support tool for building renovation strategies. The approach is being tested with the renovation of 300 dwellings.



The Interreg project ACE Retrofitting introduces and promotes a governance arrangement that overcomes the legal, human and financial barriers of retrofitting condominiums. With the use, improvement and adaptation of the free collaborative tool developed by the Paris Climate Agency, CoachCopro, it aims to successfully assist condominium owners (demand) and building professionals (supply) through an iterative process which cultivates trust relationships and generates direct and indirect jobs. The main outputs include:


  • an owners and condominium managing structures toolkit to overcome barriers and accelerate the energy retrofitting of condominiums;
  • an operational coaching framework to improve the building professionals’ capacity to renovate condominiums;
  • a governance arrangement facilitated by local authorities linking the demand and supply sides as well as an ICT tool for information and project management based on CoachCopro.


Supporting the renovation of large commercial buildings often visited by the public



The IEE neZEH project aimed to accelerate the rate of large scale renovations of existing hotels into NZEB by:


  • providing technical advice to committed hoteliers;
  • demonstrating flagship NZEB projects in the European hospitality sector;
  • undertaking training and capacity building activities.

Sixteen hotels in Europe benefitted from technical assistance to become neZEH and enjoy up to 70% reduction of their primary energy consumption using best solutions: energy efficiency measures, renewable energy sources and behavioural changes of staff and clients. The neZEH e-toolkit developed is a practical tool for hotel owners to compare their energy consumption to the neZEH levels and to suggest appropriate measures for energy efficiency improvement.



The main goals of the STEP-2-SPORT IEE co-funded project were to perform a step-by-step renovation towards NZEB in 22 European sport buildings (indoor swimming pools and indoor facilities). This was achieved among others by:


  • defining a roadmap towards NZEB in European sport buildings, including energy performance indicators, short and long term goals, innovative business model schemes and a contingency plan for the renovation of European sport buildings;
  • setting recommendations for a common EU certification scheme of sport buildings, in support of EPBD Article 11.9;
  • supporting the public sector to set an example resulting in more energy efficient sport buildings.


Total Concept, a project funded under the IEE programme, worked to demonstrate that large scale energy performance improvements in existing non-residential buildings can be profitable for building owners and investors. The Total Concept method aimed to make energy efficiency renovation attractive for investors and serve as a market driver for major refurbishment of existing non-residential buildings towards Nearly Zero-Energy Buildings.



The FP7 Ecoshopping project provided energy efficient & cost competitive retrofitting solutions for shopping buildings. It aimed to build a holistic retrofitting solution for commercial buildings to reduce primary energy consumption down to less than 80kWh/m2/year and increase the share of RES by more than 50% compared to the state of the art. The approach was systemic by developing:


  • novel thermal insulation solutions using cost-effective materials to further reduce the thermal losses and lower the energy consumption;
  • easy to install and cascadable daylighting technologies to reduce energy billing and improve comfort;
  • a HVAC retrofitting systemic approach based on RES direct powered demand control variable speed heat pump and harnessing the building thermal mass for reducing the energy consumption;
  • an integrated solution based on the intelligent automation unit concept and mobile robot.


More information on building energy efficient renovations


Projects carried out under the Horizon 2020 Energy Efficiency calls, the Intelligent Energy Europe (IEE) programme, the European Structural and Investment Funds programmes and others have produced many examples of good practice at national, regional and local level. Some of these have been set out by the European Commission in its Staff Working Document "Good Practice in Energy Efficiency".


More information on EU-funded projects dealing with (deep) renovation is available in the following previous BUILD UP Overview Articles:


Building renovation, forming one of the main focus points of the Clean Energy Package, is also systematically addressed at policy level at the Concerted Action on Energy Performance of Buildings Directive and the Concerted Action on the Energy Efficiency Directive meetings of national representatives assigned with the implementation of the respective directives. 


Training of professionals in the proper application of innovative technologies during renovations is established at European level with support from the BUILD UP Skills initiative. Finally, the IEE QUALICHeCK project shows what other boundary conditions are necessary to guarantee long-term quality of renovation works in practice, and provides guidelines for implementing a robust compliance and enforcement framework.



New project-funding opportunities


The Horizon 2020 Work Programme 2018-2020 and in particular its actions concerning the Societal Challenge 'Secure, Clean and Efficient Energy’ is aligned with the proposal for a revised EPBD in relation to building renovation. In particular, calls under the focus area 'Building a low-carbon, climate resilient future' include invitations, among others, for proposals regarding the upgrading of buildings' energy performance and smartness, innovative approaches for the decarbonisation of the EU building stock, integrated home renovations, innovative financing for energy efficiency investments, and more. Also, the building-related calls under the Focus Area 'Building a low-carbon, climate resilient future: Industrial Leadership - Industrial Sustainability', and in particular the work programme on ‘Nanotechnologies, Advanced Materials, Biotechnology and Advanced Manufacturing and Processing (NMBP)’, includes relevant calls, e.g., proposals against building information modelling adapted to efficient renovation. The related calls are funded under the Energy-efficient Buildings Public Private Partnership (EeB PPP) initiative.