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Procuring energy saving building technologies for residential buildings

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ATC Turin (ATC) is a public agency providing social housing in the Italian province of Turin. It has been improving the environmental and energy performance of its properties since 1996.


ATC was a partner of the Public Administration Procurement Innovation to Reach Ultimate Sustainability (PAPIRUS) project - funded by European Union CIP Entrepreneurship and Innovation Programme - which aims to promote, implement and validate innovative solutions for sustainable construction through public procurement pilots with a particular focus on nearly zero energy consumption.


The PAPIRUS project consortium consisted of six partners; each one explored a pilot approach to procuring innovative materials for the renovation and construction of buildings. ATC’s pilot site consisted of three social housing blocks (21 apartments) situated on the Via Monte Ortigara in the Municipality of Rivalta (a former industrial suburb of Turin).


The ATC Torino procurement process had three objectives:

-Reducing energy losses through walls (vertical building opaque envelope) without reducing the net floor area of apartments;

-Insulating roofs without reducing the floor to ceiling height of rooms;

-Providing more effective window systems which decrease heat loss and increase solar gain in winter, while reducing solar gain in summer.


The PAPIRUS project was based on a Public Procurement of Innovation (PPI) approach. The main challenge of a PPI process is finding the best solution to an identified problem or need, which in this case was energy performance and sustainability. By using performance-based specifications and evaluating bids against both quality and price, it is possible to facilitate the introduction of new products to the market.


Initially, PAPIRUS solutions focused on materials and technologies that:

-reduce energy losses through the opaque envelope of both new and already erected buildings;

-decrease solar gains in summer and energy losses in winter through windows and fenestrations;

-provide good quality natural daylight;

-store thermal energy shifting heating and cooling peak loads;

-reduce CO2 emissions in the production, construction and in-use phase.


Market engagement activities were carried out to give potential suppliers time to prepare their proposals before the call for tenders was published. This also allowed ATC time to gain more knowledge of the market, such as the availability, cost and possible practical implications of the different alternatives/solutions. As a result of the market engagement, thermal storage material and natural lighting providing technologies were ultimately excluded from the procurement process due to lack of feedback from the market, and lack of economic efficiency.

The remaining applied technologies were then advanced as independent lots in a tender, and an open procedure was carried out to award the contract.


This purchase concerned a public supply contract of products for subsequent building refurbishment works. Delivery of the refurbishment works was not part of this tender, and was organised as part of a separate process. It was specified that the winning bidder of the public supply contract would have to interact with the main contractor for the refurbishment stage.


Sustainability impacts

Buildings consume around 40% of total final energy requirements in Europe and 36% of CO2 emissions in the EU (source). In order to reach the 90% greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction target for 2050, each building on average will have to demonstrate very low CO2 emission levels and consume very little energy. By participating in the PAPIRUS pilot project, ATC demonstrated that buildings can be successfully retrofitted to increase their energy efficiency, and thereby reduce CO2 emissions, while also potentially decreasing household energy bills for residents.


A technological validation was performed to quantify and assess the improvements through the implementation of the awarded innovative solution. Physical measurements were carried out in the social housing before and after retrofitting activity using the 'blower door test method', which measures the building envelope's air-tightness. The results of the test confirmed that improvements had been realised, with infiltration dropping by more than 35%, and building users also reported satisfaction with the solutions and greater comfort in the home. Across the whole PAPIRUS project, more than 670.688 kWh/year have been saved by the implementation of the innovative solution awarded in the framework of the PAPIRUS project.


Using an innovation approach also created added value through its facilitation of organizational innovation. All the procuring entities achieved best value for public money as well as wider economic, environmental and societal benefits, and the project also addressed transparency and non-discrimination principles. The innovative approach to market consultation promoted equal treatment of all potential bidders in order to ensure that no bidder is unfairly advantaged.


The external new coating gave the opportunity to ATC del Piemonte Centrale to save about the 16% of heating demand, but even more representative is the situation in the summer where the new selected windows grant at present great comfort to the tenants. Social housing are not provided with cooling system, although the temperature in the summer with closed windows was proved to be around 21°C instead of the average 27 °C. The survey performed at the end of the project provided a good tenant’s satisfaction also regarding the great decrease of the humanity and dampness level in the common areas and ground floor apartments.

Lessons learnt

Contracts were divided into lots in order to encourage the participation of smaller companies, such as SMEs. However, this can also have unfavourable effects when solutions which are dependent on one another (such as windows and walls) are not sufficiently taken into account. In situations like this, a system integrator would be useful, which is a role that is usually performed by a larger company. This could instead be provided by the procurer in order to retain direct engagement with the SME/provider. However, such an arrangement requires specialist knowledge and expertise, which is not always available in-house. Freedom to innovate can be challenging for suppliers, especially when they are used to public administrations outlining their exact requirements. Thorough market engagement is thus essential to encourage suppliers, particularly SMEs, to come forward with solutions. The market engagement events carried out by ATC were also used to obtain feedback on suitable award criteria for the upcoming procurement; however, SMEs with limited experience in taking part in public procurement procedures may not have sufficient resources to engage in these types of processes. In future, it would be more effective to establish award criteria first, and then present these for discussion with potential suppliers at these events. The implementation of joint purchases between different European countries turned out not to be possible, due to the differences in the legal requirements for each country. The requirements and documentation provided as part of this tender proved to be too complex – this was the feedback received during the tendering phase. This complexity limited the innovation from the supplier’s side and had consequences such as low participation in the procurement process and a poor quality of the provided documentation in the bids. For upcoming procurements, the technical requirements should be less detailed and instead specify clearly the procurement goals, with minimum requirements focusing on a functional description of the needs.

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Economic effect

Energy: 42,96 MWh per Year (30kWh/mq per year) Other: total reduction across project partners of 670kWh per year