Low Energy Apartment Futures

Making it easier to improve the energy efficiency of multi-occupancy buildings

Project duration: April 2013 to March 2016

Low Energy Apartment Futures (LEAF) was a European-wide project aimed at improving the energy efficiency of apartment blocks. CSE was one of eight partner organisations from across Europe involved. Others came from Austria, France, Germany, Hungary and Sweden. 

The project ran from March 2013 to March 2016 and was funded by the EU’s Intelligent Energy Europe programme and local organisations in each country. It was led by Changeworks.

The overall aim of LEAF was to overcome a number of key barriers to retrofitting multi-occupancy buildings in order to make them more energy efficient. Such barriers included the limitations of Energy Performance Certificates and difficulties associated with buildings under multiple ownership.

Here is a brief introduction to LEAF from CSE's Bridget Newbery and Mike McClelland.

You can read the final report of the project here. The report includes a series of EU-wide policy recommendations.

Other significant outputs from the 3-year project include a pair of toolkits, developed to provide a step-by-step approach to retrofitting apartment blocks:

  1. A Technical Toolkit to identify appropriate energy improvements and aid decision-making. In France and the UK, the tool will also enable Energy Performance Certificates from individual properties to be combined to provide a whole-property approach, including recommendations for communal areas.
  2. An Engagement Toolkit providing other information and guidance to progress installations such as obtaining legal agreements for communal measures, securing finance and guidance on planning permission.

The toolkits were piloted on 24 buildings.

The findings of the LEAF project were shared on a webinar on 8 March. Around 250 people from an amazing 48 countries tuned in to hear about tackling energy efficiency in multi-occupancy apartment blocks. You can listen to the webinar here. CSE's Bridget Newbery was one of the presenters.

In the UK
As is the case elsewhere in Europe, in the UK there are significant challenges in reducing energy bills for households that share a building fabric with other dwellings (such as purpose-built blocks of flats, or large houses converted to flats). 

Identifying the best practical ways to reduce energy bills and reaching agreement between owners to implement communal measures can be complex and time consuming. In older properties there may also be issues around gaining planning permission for certain improvement measures

A particular barrier to retrofitting multiple-occupancy buildings is that Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) are produced only for individual dwellings and not for the whole building, and because they don't cover communal areas they give no recommendations regarding improvements to lighting and stairwell insulation. There is a need to improve the effectiveness of EPCs in these situations and to provide a support framework for owners wishing to go through the process.

The Bristol case studies

All six LEAF partners worked with actual apartment blocks to understand the barriers to energy efficiency retrofits that they faced. CSE worked with two case study sites in Clifton, Bristol: Manilla Road and College Court.

Manilla Road is a pre-1900 end of terrace building converted into four flats, three of which are privately rented and managed by the same letting agent, the fourth of which is owner occupied.

CSE was approached by the letting agent who was aware of a need to improve the EPC ratings of the three flats and wanted to know about available grants. Fortunately, the owner-occupier of the fourth flat was also willing to explore possible improvements in order to reduce bills and improve the comfort of their home.

Internal wall insulation was identified as the most suitable improvement, but work was not carried out in the timeframe of the project due to a number of barriers:

  • Funding: as funding availability (through the Green Deal Home Improvement Fund) dwindled, so did the enthusiasm of the management committee.
  • Communication: it was difficult and time-consuming to engage with all relevant parties (letting agent, owner occupier, tenants, installer).
  • Regulations: the building is in a conservation area so the options for improvements were limited.
  • Confidence: there is a lack of precedence for this kind of retrofit so difficult to get a commitment from occupiers and installers.

College Court (main picture) is a 1950s block of 19 apartments over five storeys. There is a mix of owner-occupiers and privately renting tenants living in the building which is managed through a board of directors.

One of the building's owner occupiers wanted to improve the comfort of her top-floor flat and was keen to look at opportunities in the building as a whole. It turned out that the building had unfilled cavity walls and insulating these was identified as the most logical improvement. A fee was agreed that would have cost residents just £140 per flat, but to date the installation hasn’t been carried out. Again, there were several identifiable barriers, most notably:

  • Engagement: whilst our key contact was very engaged, it was difficult and time consuming to connect with other occupants and landlords.
  • Building issues: work couldn’t progress until damage to the roof, which meant water was leaking inside the cavity, had been rectified.

Fortunately, the roof was successfully repaired in late 2015, meaning that the cavity wall insulation should be installed later this year.

Both case studies demonstrate the challenges of making energy improvements to apartment buildings due to various factors such as the number of people involved in decision making and access to grants. Our European partners fared rather better with their apartment buildings.

For further information contact:

Bridget Newbery | 0117 934 1413

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