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Understanding owners’ motivations to support renovation of condominiums: What research and experimentation tell us

By Laura Guérin on 7 December 2017

With 12,000 households living in condominiums in Maastricht and among them 7,000 with a G energy label, the energy retrofitting of these buildings is a major challenge for the municipality. The workshop and site visit organised on 16 November in Maastricht - as part of the Interreg North-West Europe ACE-Retrofitting project, aimed to better understand owners’ barriers to taking action in their buildings thanks to feedback from academic research and project experience.

Energy efficiency pays off: A key argument for the energy retrofitting of condominiums

Research shows that energy efficiency usually ranks low for citizens in housing priorities. This is one of the results of the HEEC project that was presented by Véronique Vasseur from ICIS, the sustainability institute of Maastricht University: the main motivations for households behind energy saving measures are financial savings as well as social influence (“Someone said I should do it”).

As financial savings are key drivers for owners, Piet Eichholtz, Professor of Real Estate and Finance at the School of Business and Economics at Maastricht University, presented major results of a large number of studies: better labelled homes get better price, sell faster and have higher rents. However, this correlation between energy efficiency and property value is well known by households and seems to be even denied by the real estate sector. Other studies also show that mortgages on efficient homes perform better and are considered less risky by banks who are creating specific products. For example, some Dutch banks already take energy efficiency into account and offer lower rates for better energy performance certificates.

Why we need to understand behaviour to change it

Behaviour change programmes need a systematic approach based both on theory and evidence. As an illustration, Rob Ruiter, Professor of Applied Social Psychology at the Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience at Maastricht University, explained the intervention mapping. If the first step is to identify the logic model of the problem (behavioural and external factors causing the high carbon footprint), the second step is then to switch to a logic model of change.

This logic model builds on several steps. The first one is to identify performance objectives: What do owners need to do to change? What needs to be done in the owners’ environment so that this change can occur? Then it comes to identifying change objectives: What do owners need to learn to achieve the performance objectives?

Knowledge on this complex process behind behaviour change can help local authorities design coaching initiatives for condominium owners. This complexity has also been portrayed during the workshop by Hafid Bendaoud, manager for the portfolio of associations of owners of housing corporation Servatius in Maastricht. He shared insight into the difficult decision-making processes in annual meetings of condominiums, where a very large diversity of owners share their say: investors who are represented by the housing corporation, senior citizens who might not see personal benefits in long-term investment, owners with already a big mortgage who won’t be able to pay for more investments, etc.

City labs and customer profiles: Some inspiration to tackle the complexity of decision-making processes in condominiums

City labs are participatory platforms for open innovation that support experimentation with real users in real-life contexts. Sven Cimmermans, core partner at the Maastricht Lab, presented the experience from the European Urb@Exp project that aimed to develop guidelines to facilitate the uptake of city labs, innovative forms of governance. Dennis Fokkinga, founder and co-owner of Driven By Values, zoomed in on his work on client profiles for the Dutch association of Municipalities.

Another inspiring example is the Enexis huis, the new education and information centre in refurbished houses in Maastricht that take you through different measures to reduce energy consumption at home with 3 “customer profiles”: Anne, who wants the world to be more sustainable, Hans, who aims to reduce his energy bill and Sem, a fan of new technologies.

The ACE-Retrofitting project
43% of the European population lives in condominiums/multi-occupancy apartment blocks, which are primarily of low energy performance. How can cities accelerate the energy retrofitting of these buildings?
Energy Cities, guided by a strategic energy transition vision and its capacity to ensure widespread success in its network, along with 6 local authorities from 5 different countries in NWE will introduce and promote a governance arrangement that overcomes the legal, human and financial barriers of retrofitting condominiums.
- www.nweurope.eu/ace-retrofitting
- Register to the ACE-Retrofitting mailing list to receive monthly update on the project! laura.guerin@energy-cities.eu
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