EU Renovation Projects Aiming for Nearly-Zero-Energy Cities

By May 26, 2014

Fifteen European municipalities have joined forces under the My Smart City District initiative, embracing three separate projects whose joint aim is to share and promote innovative, sustainable solutions for energy-efficient residential renovation on a neighbourhood or district scale.

In the European Union today there are around 160 million buildings, which represent some 40% of total EU energy consumption and 36% of overall CO2 emissions. New construction represents between 1 and 1.5% of building stock, while demolished buildings account for 0.2 - 0.5%. Meanwhile renovation projects are running at around 2% of buildings per year, i.e. close to a million homes. Starting out from this observation, three existing EU-funded projects – EU-Gugle, R2CITIES and ZenN – have come together under the ‘My Smart City District’ label. Their overall aim is to improve the energy efficiency of town or municipality renovation programmes, fostering substantial reductions in energy consumption and output of greenhouse gases. The projects all come under the European Union’s ‘Horizon 2020’ Research and Innovation programme and are receiving financial backing from the EU’s current (7th) Framework Programme for Research, Technological Development and Demonstration.  

Saving up to 7,178 MWh*

The R2CITIES project involves implementing strategies for the design, construction and management of low energy consumption building renovation models. A key objective is that the solutions developed should be broadly replicable in every city district or neighbourhood. Three pilot projects are running in districts of three European cities with differing climates and user habits: Genoa, in Italy, Kartal, a district of Istanbul in Turkey, and Valladolid in Spain. The pilots will cover over 850 homes, involving some 57,000 m2 of accommodation space and more than 1,500 users. The potential for reducing overall energy consumption is forecast at 60%​​, implying a 75% reduction in energy consumption for heating and air conditioning and 50% for lighting and hot water production. The R2CITIES project is therefore expected to help save over 7 Gigawatts of energy consumption – equivalent to half the gross energy consumption of Ireland in 2007 – avoiding around 6.5 million tons of equivalent CO2 emissions over the next five years.  The most notable aspect of R2CITIES is the aim of developing solutions that can be replicated on a large scale.

Aiming for wide practical impact

The My Smart City District initiative partners have set in motion a communication programme aimed at both the general public and industry players. A number of ongoing studies are seeking solutions to improve the overall energy performance of buildings on a town district or neighbourhood scale, working towards developing standard indicators and a new approach to diagnostics; analysing existing energy technologies using a systemic approach; and new strategies for urban energy planning. In addition, project participants are working to put measurement and energy performance verification tools in place, and also take these tools to the market in order to ensure that the results and recommendations arising from the project are taken up and used by construction firms. These new energy-oriented urban planning strategies are intended to feed into real building refurbishment projects across Europe. The construction sector is in fact the biggest employer in the European Union and 99% of all small and medium-sized companies work in this field. Meanwhile the three projects linked under the ‘My Smart City District’ initiative are opening up new opportunities for a sustainable construction market.

*According to R2CITIES estimates, the project should enable the saving of 2,478 MWh/year equivalent in the city of Valladolid, 1,691 MWh/year in Genoa, and 3,009 MWh/year in Kartal, plus considerable reductions in CO2 emissions, amounting to 635 tons/year for Valladolid, 395 tons/year for Genoa, and lastly 847 tons/year for Kartal.

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