Promoting energy-efficient renovation

How Riedstadt (DE) is using municipal leverage to support citizens

Our built environment largely lacks climate-compatible building fabric, yet the buidlings in which we live and work today will remain with us for a long time to come. If we want to advance local climate action, we must therefore prioritise energy-efficient renovations. Prejudices and high costs, however, often hinder implementation. Riedstadt (DE) is leading the way with a municipal programme that focuses on supporting citizens with high quality renovation.

When it comes to renovation, many cities and towns focus primarily on their municipal properties. This has a ripple effect. Riedstadt, in part due to a lack of funds for the renovation of its own properties, concentrates instead on private buildings. This is also where the greatest potential for energy savings lies. But how can a city support private building owners without municipal funding?

Under German tax law, it is possible to claim up to 100% of investments on building-related climate protection measures as an income tax write-off over multiple years, so long as the property is located in a formally designated renovation district. This benefit can then be further supplemented with other subsidies, such as Germany’s federal subsidy for efficient buildings. "This makes highly efficient building retrofits even more economically attractive," explains Benjamin Krick, Renovation Manager for Riedstadt (DE). In other EU countries, too, there are often little-known funding opportunities that cities can make use of – looking into the options can be worthwhile.

For Riedstadt then, it all begins by defining renovation districts. "This can be easily linked to the heat planning mandatory for larger municipalities anyway," comments Benjamin Krick. Riedstadt then offers citizens in such renovation districts free onsite consultations on energy retrofitting – including information on ways to finance the planned measures. "We walk through the building together and think about what can be done. Sometimes owners then hire further consultants, who can also help with funding applications," explains the renovation manager. As soon as the measures have been determined, citizens sign an implementation agreement with the city. "After successful and verified implementation, the city certifies the measures. This certificate can then be used to make the tax claim," continues Krick.

During the process, Riedstadt places a priority on the quality of the refurbishment measures. The city uses the EnerPHit standard for retrofits based on passive house principles as orientation and EnerPHit is also set out in the municipal building guidelines. "The standard has proven its worth and reliably reduces both energy requirements and overall costs to a sustainably low level. For this reason, we don't certify just any measure, but only sustainable, EnerPHit measures," explains Benjamin Krick. The high quality of the measures does not necessarily lead to higher costs either – on the contrary: "For example, avoiding thermal bridges hardly costs more and does not require much more labour than a standard renovation. It's the same with thicker thermal insulation, for example. Once the scaffolding is in place and the façade is already being done, the roof is being repaired or a PV system is being installed, thicker building insulation generally really pays off," says the renovation manager. Paying attention to energy efficiency helps residents to keep their operating costs low while increasing comfort. Such high quality is also essential for the climate. "Yes, it would be good if the refurbishment backlog that exists in many cases could be cleared. However, we simply don't have the skilled labour to significantly increase the renovation rate. That's why it's all the more important to do everything right from the start and retrofit to a sustainable standard," adds Krick.

Although Riedstadt has only had a renovation manager since September 2023, the city can already look back on some 100 consultations. Riedstadt's approach of supporting high-performance, energy-efficient renovation with the EnerPHit standard and its skilful application of financing options provides real added value for citizens and the climate. The municipality itself also benefits, coming one step closer to achieving its climate targets!

Written in June 2024