Smart toolkit to boost renovation market

Integrating technologies could lead to reducing energy use in social housing by 90%.

Social housing renovation could be transformed by an innovative approach to retrofitting, a new report by Politecnico di Milano (POLIMI) and the University of Lyon(ENTPE) has found. The report is a milestone for the HEART project (Holistic Energy and Architectural Retrofit Toolkit), which is developing a multifunctional retrofit toolkit to transform buildings into smart, low-energy homes and offices.

“The market research confirms that HEART’s innovation is unique,” says Claudio Del Pero, HEART Manager and Senior Researcher at POLIMI. “Our holistic approach to integrating renewable retrofit components and tools in a single solution tackles major challenges of deep renovation. This guarantees energy efficiency, affordability, and comfort, improving the sustainability performance of the building.”

The report highlights the regulatory and innovation context of deep renovation, reviews markets across Italy, France, Spain, and Slovenia, and presents the state of play for key retrofit technologies used in the HEART toolkit. According to the European Commission, almost 75% of Europe’s buildings are energy inefficient, and the renovation rate ranges from just 0.4 to 1.2%, depending on the country. Yet minimising energy consumption in buildings – and indeed, developing nearly-zero energy buildings (nZEBs) and positive-energy (or ‘smart’) buildings that can interact with the grid – is central to Europe’s climate and energy policy, and essential for meeting ambitious targets for 2030 and beyond.

“The global climate change challenge may be won only by radically rethinking our energy system. The energy consumption of buildings is a critical part of this system. The results from this report fully support the technological path that HEART has chosen,” says Mohammed Elmankibi, Research Director at ENTPE.

In particular, HEART is targeting social housing as the testbed for the new toolkit. Housing Europe, a network of social housing organisations whose members manage about 11% of households in Europe, is one of 16 partners in the consortium.

“This is a holistic package, that combines all the different elements – photovoltaics, renewables, insulation and so on – for deep renovation, and that can help to choose the most optimal mix and settings. This means that HEART shows how to get the best value, in terms of energy performance and investmentcosts,” says Sébastien Garnier, innovation and project manager at Housing Europe.

The HEART system will be tested on buildings managed by social housing providers, such as Est Métropole Habitat, a social housing organisation managing 16,000 social housing units in eastern Lyon, France. A second test site is owned by ACER (Azienda Casa Emilia-Romagna) Reggio Emilia, a public housing provider in Reggio Emilia, Italy. Over the next two years, after the HEART interventions, the buildings will be in line with nZEB levels of energy consumption (<50 kWh/m2/yr) – and should achieve energy savings of 90%.

These test cases for the HEART system are typical of the target market in Central and Southern Europe: medium-size, multi-storey condominium buildings, constructed in the second half of the 20th century and located in moderate climatic zones. It is estimated that there are around 1,005,000 such buildings in Europe.

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About HEART:

The HEART toolkit incorporates different components and technologies, which cooperate to transform an existing building into a smart building. In developing this toolkit, the project advances and improves energy efficiency and the use of renewable energies in buildings across Europe. Particularly in Central and Southern Europe where climate change is leading to increased electricity consumption both during summer and winter seasons. The core of HEART is a cloud-based computing platform that includes decision-making and energy management features. The HEART toolkit thus becomes the heart of a building, regulating its energy consumption and energy flow.