Cooperating for renovation – how to improve energy efficiency in Tampere limited liability housing companies

Citizen engagement and transparent decision making processes are at the core of the Smart City concept. In Tampere, tenant involvement has been a key factor for the successful renovation of over 32,000 square metres of living space, achieved in the framework of the EU-GUGLE Smart City Initiative. As part of this initiative, eight pilot buildings in the Tammela district have been selected to carry out an ambitious energy efficient refurbishment programme and have reduced their overall energy consumption by 58%.

Achieving democracy in building refurbishment

Like most residential building blocks or row houses in Finland, the eight EU-GUGLE pilot buildings are owned by individual limited liability housing companies. This means that the owners are the direct decision makers regarding the management of the building. Owners are usually represented by a board of delegates, voting for decisions of minor importance, and a professional building manager, hired by residents to take care of the daily management of the building. Major decisions however, related for instance to building refurbishment, must be taken at bi-annual shareholder meetings, where the vote of each resident is weighted according to the size of their apartment.

“In most cases, residents are not professionals in the field of energy efficient renovation and thus need to be guided to choose the most relevant measures” says Tiina Sahakari from the City of Tampere. Even if the votes follow a simple majority rule, this means that this decision-making system can sometimes slow down the refurbishment process. To avoid this pitfall, VTT has been in charge of advising the board of residents on the technical aspects of renovation and ensuring the adequacy of the measures chosen by the limited liability housing companies. Moreover, the legal structure of limited liability housing companies has allowed resident to get a bank loan easily, that will be repaid in combination with monthly maintenance charges.

Sharing experience for wider replication of successful refurbishment models

Resident involvement is often considered as a key element for the success of building refurbishment projects. In Tampere, it should be recognised that some owners have been more involved in the process than others, because of a lack of interest amongst a limited number of residents. Nevertheless, residents are now happy with the results of the renovation and in some pilot buildings the implementation of additional measures is even being planned. If building managers have been of great support during the retrofitting process, it is the owners who now represent the greatest ambassadors for wider replication of energy-efficient refurbishment projects in Tampere. In the framework of events such as the TARMO+ exhibition, residents have the opportunity to share their experience with other Tampere inhabitants and help them assess the benefits of energy-efficient renovation. According to the municipality, the experience of the EU-GUGLE pilot buildings has raised interest in Tampere and several limited liability housing companies are already considering implementing similar projects.