In many European Member States, the 3% renovation rate will only be achieved if policies also focus on collective renovation. Fortunately, valuable experience from the ground with a specific focus on multi-apartment buildings exists. At a one-day conference in Brussels, the six ACE-Retrofitting pilot cities (Liège, Paris, Antwerp, Maastricht, Aberdeen, Frankfurt) that are part of the Interreg NWE-funded project shed light on some of the opportunities and challenges involved in supporting retrofit projects in condominiums.
During the Belgian Fair for Condominiums, the ACE-Retrofitting Conference brought together Belgian and European stakeholders, from both public authorities and private entities, working in the building sector. The political debate and a practitioner experience-sharing session revealed that condominiums still are, what might be called, an orphan amongst building types.
Especially in North-West Europe, many condominiums were built before 1970 and therefore require modernisation. While some pioneering local authorities have started putting specific efforts into working with co-owner groups and building professionals, the overall legal framework at European and national levels is still weak.
In mid-November 2019, the European Commission announced that it will release a housing renovation programme in December. It is meant to be ‘one of the flagships’ of the upcoming European Green Deal. The conference panellists and participants exchanged experiences and methods around stakeholder involvement and gave some guidance in accelerating condominium retrofitting work.
Policy-makers could take inspiration from the approaches that have been developed by the ACE-Retrofitting partners in the past three years. The participating local authorities and knowledge partners have designed a unique renovation coaching service for condominiums, supported by a number of concrete guidance documents such as the ACE-Retrofitting step-by-step tool. It helps to ease the often long and complex processes around retrofit projects in multi-apartment buildings.
“A deep retrofit of a house is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that shouldn’t be taken lightly”, said Thierry van Cauwenberg, energy consultant of the Vice-President of the Walloon Government and Minister for Climate, Energy and Mobility. This idea was also supported by Aurélie Beauvais from Solar Power Europe. The policy director called for a stronger framework and incentives for an integrated approach. Renovation is only one piece of the puzzle. Ms Beauvais also stressed the need to turn homeowners into prosumers and to increase the number of renewable energy communities in condominiums.
Vincent Spruytte, Vice-President of the French-Speaking Union of Property Managers supported the idea. According to him, condominiums which become energy producers could consequently cover the retrofitting cost with the revenues from energy sales.
Emmanuelle Causse from the International Union of Property Owners pointed out that basic data and knowledge about condominiums is still largely missing in Europe. Improving data collection and monitoring would be a first, important step to designing better policies in the field. That said, the afternoon discussions at the conference amongst local practitioners revealed similar issues at the municipal level: Paris, Maastricht and Antwerp reported the difficulty in finding data and monitoring progress on condominium retrofits. To counter this, Paris has just started to develop an observatory of condominium retrofits to make the market tangible and visible.
Here are some conclusions from the debate on what is still missing for more efficient condominiums, especially at the EU level:
- Policy instruments that take into account long term goals.
- Integrated plans for the building including how you can generate energy, improve safety etc.
- Policies that stimulate integrated measures, combining health, energy savings etc.
- A thorough collection of information and data on condominiums
- More places where all stakeholders can meet
- More attention paid to retrofitting of condominiums
- Increase capacity-building (training support) for building professionals and trustees
- Make financial or fiscal help available at all steps of the renovation process, including the very first ones, like audits.
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