City-zen Days: Retrofitting for the Future

Retrofitting projects formed an important part of the discussions during City-zen Days. To venture beyond the theoretical, actual participants in these projects were asked to offer their opinions and share experiences in panel discussions. And to complete the transformation from theory to practice, City-zen Days visitors went on field visits to see a handful of the discussed projects in real life.

© brenda de vries 2019

Retrofitting Revolves around Residents

When Rudy Rooth of consortium partner DNV GL talked about the energy efficiency in refurbished homes, he started with an overall picture of the various eco refurbishment approaches (from insulation, PV panels, heat recovery systems to heat pumps and more) and their locations (which happen to be throughout the city). Audience members learned how data was being collected and why the projects were monitored in the first place. Although it seemed abstract at first, analysis revealed fascinating results, such as average energy savings of 59% and even an impressive 65% in one particular case. Zooming in on their personal experiences with the refurbishments, Rudy’s colleague Liselotte van Balen moderated a panel discussion touching on personal motivations as well as end result satisfaction. A recurring notion was that expectations of increased comfort were often met and that this was deemed more impactful that energy savings percentages – a stark reminder of the power of sentiment.


Key Ingredients to Accelleration

Amsterdam Economic Board’s Marjolein Bot picked up where the previous presentation left off and started with added focus on retrofitting results achieved. Again, some of the results were very encouraging indeed: on average, dwellings improved a remarkable 4.7 energy label grades (e.g. from E to A). But how, asked Marjolein, can we accelerate the transformation towards climate neutral living? Data reveals only part of what is needed to make retrofitting projects scalable. As we’ve seen throughout City-zen Days, one of the important learnings is that citizen involvement is the key to a successful project.

As moderator of her own residents panel, Marjolein offered various statements that elicited responses from audience members as well, topics ranging from energy renovation expertise to retrofitting regulations and financial incentives. As was expected, opinions and experiences varied wildly, further emphasizing the need for close(r) collaboration. Yes, panelists agreed, the outcome is largely worth the hard work but perseverance alone is hardly enough to make challenging projects such as sustainable retrofitting succeed.

© brenda de vries 2019

Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing

A substantial part of City-zen Days Amsterdam consisted of field visits to retrofitting projects such as social housing, dwellings and house boats provided visitors with the unique opportunity to bridge theory and practice. Residents acted as tour guides through their homes, answering questions pertaining to various parts of the retrofitting process. One of the highlights was a visit to the social housing estate named after sir Edwin Airey for his influence on post-war prefab construction. City-zen subsidy aided in saving this remarkable part of Amsterdam from being demolished, the project is near completion and has yielded invaluable data on the renovation of 20th century dwellings.

© brenda de vries 2019

© brenda de vries 2019

© brenda de vries 2019

Retrofitting projects are a Living Lab

The retrofitting projects very much function as experiments that might lead to breakthroughs in our search for sustainable living in metropolitan areas. Within the boundaries of experimentation, we frequently refer to certain groups of projects as being part of a ‘Living Lab’: an environment in which a development in a field of study can be tested and applied with real users in a real-life environment. In order to make the results of these experiments accessible beyond the realm of retrofitting experts, City-zen published a document written for experts, enthusiasts and laymen alike: Living Lab Amsterdam. The booklet features many of the above described renovation projects. Download the PDF here.

  • The Project

    A city operating entirely on clean energy. In theory, it's possible. But in real life? How to integrate new solutions in existing buildings, systems and people's lives? What are the technical, economic or social barriers? And how to overcome these? That's what we've learned by doing in 20 projects in Grenoble and Amsterdam.

  • Our Activities

  • Achieved Impacts

    • 20 innovations in Grenoble & Amsterdam
    • 35,000 tonnes CO2 saved per year
    • 76,000 m² renovated residential buildings
    • 10,000 dwellings connected to a Smart Grid