Supporting renovation: what role for policy makers?

Wagnis Art Area, Munich / Michael Heinrich ©Passive House Institute


For Europe to reach its 20% energy efficiency target in less than two years, ambitious and consistent support policies are urgently needed. One day ahead of the International Passive House conference, held in Munich on 9 and 10 March 2018, experts from the Passive House Institute organised a workshop dedicated to policy makers in order to share the lessons learnt from the Sinfonia project and exchange experience on efficient support measures for building refurbishment. At the occasion of this workshop, 28 policy makers including representatives from Canada, Mexico, and China, came together to discuss the challenges related to energy efficient building refurbishment and present the solutions implemented in their countries. The topics covered included standardisation, policy incentives and investment, as well as education.


High standards for high achievements


Currently, the international standards set out by the Passive House Institute are among the most effective in the world to guarantee high levels of energy savings, quality and comfort in building construction and renovation projects. According to Dr. Witta Ebel, from the Passive House Institute, “the keys to a successful refurbishment project are well trained and accredited professionals, an accurate design and energy balance tool, and high quality – in best case certified ‘Passive House’ – components”. For this purpose, partners developed a new district energy balance tool within the Sinfonia project, the ‘districtPH’, to predict the future evolutions in the districts’ energy demand and offer adapted renovation strategies for the whole area. And because less ambitious standards are also needed to retrofit buildings even when budget is limited, the Passive House Institute also created the EnerPHit standard, adapted for step by step retrofits at high quality level. In general, participants acknowledged that openness of government bodies to resolve code compliance issues was fostering the implementation and replication of passive house projects.

Among the key challenges encountered within the implementation of retrofitting projects, workshop participants highlighted that education and training level of craftworkers was essential to guarantee quality and efficiency of refurbishment works. In response to this issue, partners from Innsbruck and Bolzano noted that a proper training of contractors, complemented with site visits, facilitated the works and shortened their duration.


Looking for creative financing options


Furthermore, workshop participants had interesting talks regarding sustainable financing options. In Bolzano for example, owners were offered to extend the surface of their building by 20% to create additional apartments, for the revenues coming from their sale or rental to compensate for renovation costs. In addition, the Alpine city also offered tax deductions of up 65% on the costs linked to refurbishment projects. Finally, Eduard Puig Maclean, Partner and COO at GNE Finance, presented the PACE financing option, using private investment with payback periods of up to 20 years to cover the costs of energy efficient renovation works. This allows the initial investment to be reimbursed directly by apartment owners after the retrofitting through additional property charges.


There is still a long way ahead to make Passive Houses a common standard throughout the world, but the expected benefits in the long term are substantial. To encourage future investments in that field, consistent and continuous support from policy makers will be needed at the international level. In that sense, the exchange of good practices is crucial to identify the most effective ways to encourage high quality building renovations and replicate good practices in Europe and beyond. To learn more on the various refurbishment experiences shared by workshop participants, do not hesitate to read the full workshop report here.