A cross sectoral group of organisations from government, local authorities, industry and charities met to develop an ambitious strategy to improve the quality of the Irish existing housing stock.
The residential sector currently accounts for 27% of all energy usage in Ireland and emits 10.5 million tonnes of CO2 annually, making it the single largest source of emission after transport. Deep renovation of the existing housing stock will be required in order to meet Ireland’s climate targets.
A number of potential solutions were discussed to overcome particular barriers to renovation. These include the issue of the split incentive between landlords and tennants which discourages renovation in this sector. In particular, it heard about the very poor quality of some of the Irish housing stock from the national housing organisation, Threshold and how a well planned national renovation program could transform lives of Ireland’s fuel poor.
It also explored different business models to help scale up the level and ambition of residential renovation in Ireland. Dr. Ivo Opstelten programme director of the Dutch Energiesprong scheme led a workshop on the potential for applying their approach to Ireland’s stock. This program has carried out a highly innovative ‘zero energy bill’ renovation on over 100,000 houses.
The workshop was attended by a range of organizations including local authorities, social housing associations, business organizations, energy companies, construction businesses and NGOs.
A number of the participants expressed their views on what an ambitious national renovation strategy could achieve. According to Brian Montayne of ESB Innovation: “For Ireland to meet its stretching climate change objectives, decarbonisation of our housing stock is of critical importance. To facilitate a step change in our approach to this challenge we need a robust Renovation Strategy that will facilitate proactive engagement by all stakeholders, in particular our homeowners.”
Pat Barry Executive Director of the Irish Green Building Council stated: “The renovation of our existing housing plays a key role in improving the quality of life of our citizens. This is reflected by the breath of stakeholders from across civil society participating in the process today.”
John-Mark McCafferty, Head of Social Justice at the Society of St. Vincent de Paul added: “A renovation strategy is vital because many of the people we visit and help are in cold homes. Many families struggle to heat their house because of poor energy efficiency standards. This means respiratory infections, children going without warmth, impacts on mental health and mothers choosing between heating and eating. Much of this is in the private rented sector, where tenants are already under pressure with rising rents. Renovating houses means warmer homes. Warmer homes means healthier and better lives. It’s that simple.”
Fintan Smyth, building physics manager at Saint-Gobain explained: “Building an awareness among Irish citizens of deep renovation and why its an important outcome for all of us is key for the strategy to deliver its full potential“.
Today’s event was the second of six high level Building Renovation Workshops organised by the Irish Green Building Council and supported by the Department of Climate Change, Communications and Natural Resources, as part of the European Commission funded ‘Build Upon’ Project.
The Build Upon project is to bring together a diverse range of organisations to collaborate to support government in designing an ambitious national renovation strategy for Ireland. This strategy is required by 30 April 2017 under EU law.
The next workshop in the series will take place on 31st May in Tipperary and will focus on large-scale deep renovation in the residential buildings sector in rural areas.