Behaviour change: how to increase the impact of energy efficient renovation projects?


On 5 December 2018, the Sinfonia Smart Cities Initiative was presented by partners from EURAC Research in an online discussion focussed on challenges related to behaviour change arranged by the Interreg Europe Policy Learning Platform. Thirteen partners from the CLEAN, EMPOWER, ENERSELVES, FINERPOL, LOCARBO, MOLOC, REBUS, and ZEROCO2 projects also joined the discussion to share knowledge from their respective initiatives.


To open the discussions, Interreg Low carbon economy experts, Simon Hunkin and Katharina Krell, presented background information on the topic, highlighting the importance of nudging users, co-creation processes and the use of automated technology. Following this introduction, Nives Della Valle, from EURAC Research, presented the work carried out within the Sinfonia Smart City Initiative with regards to the engagement of social housing tenants in building renovation processes. In the five social housing buildings which are currently being retrofitted as part of the project in the city of Bolzano (Italy), significant attention has been paid to end-user engagement in view of avoiding rebound effect and facilitating replication of such projects in the neighbourhood.


Dedicated measures have been implemented in that sense, such as the installation of mailboxes for complaints and the creation of a model apartment exhibition where tenants could discover the future changes in their apartment and learn more about the new technologies to be installed. As the renovations were carried out while tenants were still living in the buildings, experts from EURAC Research also highlighted the importance of ensuring tenants’ comfort during this transition period. In Bolzano, regular workshops have been held with building inhabitants to increase awareness on energy savings and a real-time display is currently being created that will show the energy consumption of multiple apartments, comparing performance with neighbours, and giving energy saving tips.


Three other good practices examples from Interreg Europe projects complemented the presentation of the Sinfonia initiative. These included an introduction to the school carbon reduction programme of the REBUS project, a discussion on the concept of appointing energy managers for public buildings tested in the city of Lille through the MOLOC project, as well as a presentation of the online sustainability observatory for monitoring the performance of municipal electrical equipment, created as part of the LOCARBO initiative.


Constantly adapting the measures to the feedback received from tenants was highlighted as a crucial success factor for energy efficient refurbishment processes. What is more, the identification of leaders and community ambassadors is very often of a great help to foster behaviour change through a ripple effect. The discussions concluded on the importance of co-creation strategies, including innovative participative budgeting approaches, in implementing durable and sustainable energy behaviours to increase the impact refurbishment projects.


For more information, you can read a full report on the online discussion on the Interreg Europe Policy Learning platform, and download the presentation of Nives Della Valle from Eurac Research on tenant engagement and behaviour change in social housing buildings.


Want to learn more?


Further reading material from the Sinfonia project on behaviour change and tenant engagement is also available in the following publications:

  • Della Valle, Nives & Giacomo Poderi, ‘What works for consumer engagement in the energy transition: Experimenting with a behavioural-sociological approach’, Control, Change and Capacity-building in Energy Systems. 2018
  • Della Vale, N., et. al, ‘In search of behavioural and social levers for effective social housing retrofit programs’, Energy & Buildings 172 (2018)
  • Casal, S., DellaValle, N., Mittone, L., & Soraperra, I. (2017). Feedback and efficient behavior. PloS one, 12(4), e0175738.