Posted on 01 March 2012
Retrofitting suburbs for sustainability
Retrofitting suburbs for sustainabilityIn the Sustainable Järva project, buildings from Sweden's Million Programme are being environmentally renovated with the goal of creating a transferable standard. At present there are also ideas for a comprehensive environmental project for all of Europe's suburbs built in the 1960s and 70s, home to over 200 million people. It could be financed with Energy Performance Contracts, would create millions of jobs, and reduce carbon emissions substantially.
Keywords: green renovations, suburbs, energy performance contracts, renewables, efficiency
Buildings are responsible for about 40% of European carbon dioxide emissions. The 1 million homes built in the Swedish Million Programme 1965-74, and their equivalent in Europe of the 1960s and 70s, are especially demanding in terms of energy consumption, and also in urgent need of renovation. This type of housing constitutes one third of all buildings in Sweden, while in Europe it houses more than 200 million people. Furthermore, the residents of this housing are generally lower-than-average income households, and therefore have limited capacity to finance a renovation.
Thus from one perspective, European cities face a difficult environmental and economic problem. On the other hand it is also a significant opportunity to make large cuts in carbon emissions while boosting employment with green jobs.
The Sustainable Järva project is aimed at creating a model for sustainable renovations in the Million Programme areas as well as international equivalents. Stockholm-owned real estate company Svenska Bostäder is testing two different methods – traditional renovation, versus the use of prefabricated façade elements – on six buildings (350 apartments) of the three most prevalent types of residential apartment blocks. When the project stands completed in 2014, the methods will be evaluated in environmental, economic, and cultural-historic terms, and then used on an industrial scale on Svenska Bostäder’s entire stock of Million Programme buildings, all of which are scheduled to be renovated before 2022.
The goal is to halve energy consumption, install local renewable energy sources, and improve indoor environments. In Järva solar PVs and solar water heaters will be incorporated into the balcony railings, façades, and roofs, a local wind turbine will be built, and the area will be connected to the district heating system (see also Stockholm wastewater). Green transport will be promoted through an extensive network of bicycle paths, bike rentals, and a local car-pooling service. Other elements include the development of Järvafältet, a large greenspace, information and consultation with residents, as well as cultural investments.
In many such urban areas it is difficult to finance renovations, because tenants cannot afford them. One idea that has arisen is to allow future energy savings to finance the renovations. Green loans have already been introduced for small houses and condominiums. These are known as Pay As You Save loans in the UK, Energy Efficient Mortgages in the US, and Energy Performance Contracts in Germany. The borrowers pay off their renovation loans as energy efficiency decreases expenses. The success of these methods of financing seems to depend on how much the authorities involve themselves with policies and additional financial support (see also Berlin, Houston and Sutton).
Total Community Retrofit
One financing idea for very large suburban areas was developed by British engineer Peter Head. Previously a director at the global engineering firm Arup, two years ago Head started up London-based consulting firm Institute for Sustainability in the Thames Gateway. Its overarching project, Total Community Retrofit, is more comprehensive than Sustainable Järva and includes work on energy-efficient buildings, sustainable infrastructure, and green transportation and logistics. The idea is that the tenants sign a contract to pay as much for electricity, water, waste collection and other resources, for the next 10-20 years, as they do today. Massive renovations and reorganisations are then carried out that will reduce resource expenditure by 80%. With such a system in place it becomes possible to attract pension funds and other major financial investors. In addition to energy-efficient transformation of the infrastructure, reconstructions can include: local renewable energy sources; carpooling with electric vehicles; development of greenspace; local food production; and residents' education that may lead to the creation of jobs within the project.
The Institute for Sustainability is planning three major UK demonstration projects (approximately 30,000 dwellings), in urban, suburban, and rural areas, to begin in 2015. In preparation for these the Institute is participating in an ongoing renovation project in Swale, in southeast England, and has launched FLASH, an extensive educational programme in environmental engineering for construction and renovation for up to 1,200 small and medium-sized English companies.
In 2010, the Swedish Tällberg Foundation took up the issue of suburban retrofits and, in a series of seminars, has sought to engage the interest of public services, municipalities, and other agencies in Sweden. The goal of its campaign is to anchor the same holistic and ambitious perspective that is the driving force behind the Institute for Sustainability.
Nick Pennell, Sartaz Ahmed, Stefan Henningsson, "Reinventing the City to Combat Climate Change", strategy+business magazine, Issue 60, Autumn 2010, Booz & Company, http://www.strategy-business.com/article/10303?gko=f419a
UNEP/ILO/IOE/ITUC, 2008, Green Jobs: Towards Decent Work in a Sustainable, Low-Carbon World, Worldwatch Institute, september 2008, http://www.unep.org/labour_environment/PDFs/Greenjobs/UNEP-Green-Jobs-Report.pdf
City of Stockholm, “Hållbara Järva!”, http://www.stockholm.se/hallbarajarva
Anna Roxvall, "Ny energi för slitna bostäder", Svenska Dagbladet, August 27 2010, http://www.svd.se/naringsliv/ny-energi-for-slitna-bostader_5204397.svd
Tällberg Foundation, ”'Miljonprogrammet' – A makeover of Sweden’s municipal housing”, Summary of report to the Swedish Ministry of Social Affairs, Jan 2011, http://www.tallbergfoundation.org/Portals/0/Documents/Rapport_Miljonprogr%20%28eng%29.pdf
Institute for Sustainability, Total Community Retrofit, http://www.instituteforsustainability.co.uk/tcr.html
Clinton Climate Initiative and C40 Cities, "RE:FIT Initiative, London, UK: Building Retrofit Case Study", 2011, http://c40citieslive.squarespace.com/storage/REFIT%20CaseStudy%20FINAL%20August%2017.pdf
Energy Saving Trust, http://www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/Take-action
Mike Gray, “Improve Your Home – and Save Taxes – with a 'Green Mortgage'”, Blue Planet Green Living, January 27 2011, http://www.blueplanetgreenliving.com/2011/01/27/improve-your-home-and-save-taxes-with-a-green-mortgage/
Key data are retrieved from the UN World Urbanization Prospects: The 2011 Revision, http://esa.un.org/unup/unup/index_panel2.html
Text by: Martin Jacobson