How to refurbish urban residential low energy districts

Oct 29, 2013 by Elena Ledda
Rubén García: how to refurbish urban residential low energy districts

Three cases studies will constitute the basis for developing an easily replicable strategy for renovating districts so that they reach near zero energy consumption

Achieving nearly zero energy consuming cities: this is the goal of three large scale projects. They are currently being tested in Valladolid, Spain, Genoa, Italy and Kartal - Istanbul, Turkey. There, the local authorities provide the demonstration sites for the renovation of three residential districts, under the recently initiated EU funded R2CITIES . Project co-ordinator, Rubén García, researcher at energy and information and communications technology division at the Spanish research centre CARTIF, based in Boecillo near Valladolid, tells youris.com about the challenges ahead. 

How did you become involved in this large scale district renovation project? 

In Europe, there is a very high need for energy renovation. Buildings are generally aged. Energy availability is limited. And the amount of people moving to the cities is continuously growing. Our research centre participates in the Smart Cities programme on some of the strategic projects in our area. We have got involved when we realised that Valladolid city council, who is one of the Smart Cities partners, was planning to holistically refurbish the city's neighbourhood of Cuatro de Marzo. This project perfectly fitted with the concept of energy renovation. We therefore started working together with Valladolid's municipal housing society,  Viva, and the construction company Acciona Infraestructuras—both of which are project partners—to prepare a showcase project for Valladolid.

How does energy efficient residential district renovation differ from standard energy efficiency in single dwellings?

When renewing an entire district you can think of solutions on a larger scale than you would in a single house. For example, it is possible to implement a district heating by installing a much bigger biomass boiler than you could possibly do in a home. Moreover, when refurbishing a whole district in a homogeneous way  the results are much more visible than in a single building. These can therefore be more easily replicated.

Why did you choose the three demonstration sites? 

These sites are interesting because they bring in different building types and different kinds of properties. There are common solutions planned for the three showcase buildings. These include improvements in insulation and implementation of photovoltaic and solar thermal systems.

For example, the Cuatro de Marzo neighbourhood of Valladolid is a privately-owned district built in the 1960s'. The local authority promotes its renovation works through Valladolid's municipal housing society. By comparison, Kartal and Genova have been chosen to allow ambitious district-level renovations. Renovations are normally based at building level rather than at district level. What makes this project ambitious, unlike typical renovations, is that it will, for example, involve approaches such as façade renovation combined with renewable energy installations. 

The Italian demonstration site, Lavatrici neighbourhood, is a social housing district in the periphery of Genoa, Italy. It was built between the 1980s' and the 1990s' and belongs to the Genoa city hall. By comparison, the Yakacik district of Kartal belongs to the municipality of Istanbul. It was built at the end of the 1990s. Most of the area is mainly occupied by a large building originally planned as a retirement home, which was never used for that purpose because of high energy inefficiencies due, mainly, to lack of insulation and to the high costs of running it. Instead, it has been used to shelter hundreds of people affected by an earthquake for eight months. And now, it is about to be converted into social housing due to its inability to be used for other purposes because of its high energy inefficiencies related to poor insulation.

What is the most challenging aspect of the project? 

The joint participation of several different actors in the renovation of different districts, in different European cities is one of the most challenging aspects of the project. The main actors include municipalities, research centres, and renovation companies, financial and non-profit organisations and more than thousand users. The other main challenge is to ensure that the project results can be replicated in other European cities.

What makes you anticipate that other places will emulate the example set by the project case studies? 

The main project output will be the development of a so-called integrated project delivery based methodology. This involves using a method called Building Information Modelling (BIM) to gather and share all the project information including development stages, tools, details of successful and less successful solutions as well as costs related information. As a result, any actor involved in renovation work can have access to the BIM content and adapt the information for specific purposes. This could be relevant, for example, to architects, engineers, local authorities, services companies, equipment and maintenance operators and even individual users. 

We think we will be able to publish a first version of our methodology report in the project website by the beginning of the last project year, in 2017. We are creating a very ambitious strategy to disseminate our methodology and lessons learnt for policy makers, professionals and the general public. 

We will never be able to ensure our methodology will be replicated since the last word is with the relevant actors. Nevertheless, we will handle all interested stakeholder the project results gathered in a copy of our good practices book. This will constitute a form of benchmark for future holistic large scale renovation projects across Europe, should other cities involved in district renovations decide to adopt the project's methodology and similar technology solutions. 

Explore further: After Fukushima, Japan gets green boom—and glut

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Turning a building green is a question of control

Jun 12, 2013

Sustainable buildings partly depend on control strategies to be energy efficient. Implementation of possible control systems are now under study for two of the three showcases buildings, developed under the ...

Minimally invasive building renovation

Aug 03, 2012

Renovation projects to improve the energy performance of residential buildings involve a lot of messy construction work. Researchers have come up with a new modernization concept that reduces on-site installation ...

New insulating plaster for Bamberg's old town

Mar 28, 2013

They have that "certain something" and yet unrenovated historic buildings are not energy efficient. Researchers in the European project EFFESUS, working jointly with partners from business and management, ...

Recommended for you

European grid prepares for massive integration of renewables

6 hours ago

Today, the ancient city of Rome welcomed an important new initiative for the large-scale integration of grids and of renewables sources into Europe's energy mix, with nearly 40 leading organisations from research, industry, ...

Preparing for a zero-emission urban bus system

Oct 30, 2014

In order to create a competitive and sustainable transport system, the EU must look to alternative fuels to replace or complement petrol and diesel. Not only will this reduce transport emissions but it will ...

Exploring the value of 'Energy Star' homes

Oct 30, 2014

The numbers in neat columns tell—column by column, page by page—a story spread out across Carmen Carrión-Flores' desk at Binghamton University. It's a great story, she says; she just doesn't know how ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.