Despite strong initial reluctance to the innovative retrofitting of their flats, residents in a Valladolid district (Spain) are now enjoying improved comfort and lower fuel bills as they head towards winter, all thanks to an EU-funded project, REMOURBAN.
Poorly insulated flats, lack of temperature control and heavy heating bills blighted the residents of Valladolid's Fasa District in Spain. To remedy this situation, Valladolid Municipality along with CARTIF Technology Centre decided to undertake a set of retrofitting measures as part of an EU-funded project, REMOURBAN.
However, the project met with opposition from residents wary of municipal meddling and disruption to their daily lives. The Fasa Residents' Association even voted to reject this project that would eventually raise their living standards while helping to fight climate change.
REMOURBAN project coordinator, Miguel García-Fuentes, explains: "At the beginning, it was really hard to engage with the residents and discuss the solutions. Many of them were aged, unfamiliar with the communication methods we were using and had little trust in the benefits derived from the actions we were proposing. Furthermore they had to partially pay for the works."
Although the vote was negative, the project team discovered that only 40% of residents had actually participated, of which 25% had voted the project down. The project's outreach plan and key messages were thus revised to work better on the hearts and minds of the residents.
The "yes" voters, being more credible to their fellow residents, started to act as standard bearers for the works. At the same time, the project team started to address residents directly instead of only going through the presidents of communities and they involved them more in the decision-making.
"It's about earning trust with clear messages, and getting residents to convince others in their district. Residents don't want to listen to experts or large companies. They are more trusting of other residents," adds Miguel.
Interventions and Savings
The works covered 19 blocks of flats and one tower, or 24,700 m2, and consisted of a comprehensive energy overhaul. As part of REMOURBAN, roofs and walls have benefitted from novel insulation, and biomass heating systems and silos now replace the old gas and fuel boilers. The tower includes a photovoltaic ventilated façade, producing power that is then fed into the district heating network. Even the district piping has been fitted with leak detection sensors.
Energy savings range from 40% to 50%, and comfort levels in terms of humidity and temperature have already improved for the 1,000 residents concerned. In total, the district has reduced its consumption from roughly 200 kWh/m2a to 135 kWh/m2a, where 120 kWh/m2a (almost 90%) comes from biomass and photovoltaic sources. And its CO2 emissions are down by 87.57% to pre-retrofit levels.
The REMOURBAN project has also implemented smart city measures in Nottingham (UK) and Tepebasi-Eskisehir (Turkey), as part of its new urban regeneration model combining energy efficiency, mobility and ICT. Other "follower" cities are also introducing similar measures based on the REMOURBAN experience.