By agreeing to participate in the inter-Nordic development project SURE!, two Danish housing associations in Horsens will speed up the energy optimization of their apartment blocks.
Since March 1st 2014, the project SURE! – Nordic Built for Sustainable Retrofitting has been working on involving Danish, Swedish and Finnish housing associations in optimizing the energy consumption of apartment blocks. The project combines three systems in one platform: A new technology for optimizing heat and indoor climate in existing buildings, an interactive visualization system that makes it easier to understand the consumption, and an open IT-infrastructure.
The project has attracted quite a bit of interest, as many housing associations are keen to participate and find alternative solutions – or supplements – to the otherwise expensive energy renovations that rarely takes into account the potential of involving the tenants.
We are facing a large renovation of several properties, including those who are part of the project. Therefore, we find it interesting that we are already now able to register consumption patterns in the properties. After the renovation, we can compare and see how effective, the effort has been, says Kenneth M. Frederiksen, Operations Manager at the housing association, Odinsgaard, in Horsens.
User involvement creates greater potential
In order to gain the full potential of the energy optimization investments, the project focuses on involving the tenants, thereby aiming to create an interaction between the technological initiatives and the energy behaviour among the tenants. The new heat optimization technologies that make it possible to diagnose the energy consumption and adjust the energy supply of the buildings, have already been installed in several Swedish apartment blocks – and now the time has come for the Danish housing associations.
In the long run, we must expect a certain energy scarcity, so we have a responsibility, as a housing association, to contribute to more sustainability. Therefore, in cooperation with our tenants, we wish to develop behavioural and technical-oriented tools, which can contribute to the reduction of energy consumption, benefiting both the individual tenant as well as the environment, says manager in Beringsgaard, Jørgen Pommerencke, who hopes that experiences as well as specific results can be applied to even more properties in Horsens.
Next step towards energy optimization
When housing associations invest in energy optimization, the involvement of tenants’ energy behaviour as part of the solution is still unexploited. This project invites the tenants on board already in the early stages and aims to create synergy between the technological solutions and the energy habits of the tenants. Therefore, the first step is to map out the actions, habits and ideas that are connected to the use of energy.
The technological part of the solution optimizes the heat supply in the building, but in order to get the full effect of the technological solution, we explore how we can make tenants aware of the total consumption of the building and a healthy indoor climate. Therefore, we now invite the tenants to participate in the project. This may be by answering questionnaires or through interviews, user panels and pilot tests, says Munna Hoffmann-Jørgensen, sociologist and consultant with a specialty in user involvement at Insero Business Services, and continues:
If you only focus on the technological solution, you risk that the users do not understand the technology or work against it. In that case, you fail to utilize the full potential of the solution.
Thus, user involvement is an important part of the SURE project, and the aim is to create a greater understanding of energy consumption and heat loss among the tenants by using an interactive visualization tool. That way, it is expected that the tenants can assist in lowering the energy consumption of the buildings.