Helsinki’s energy renaissance strategy contributes to climate-friendly housing by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting more socially equitable housing. The City of Helsinki is involved in the Decarbon-Home project, which solves the social issues of living in a climate-friendly way.
Focus on greenhouse gas emissions from private condominiums
The City of Helsinki has set an ambitious goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2035. One of the city’s most significant emission reduction action is the so-called energy renaissance, which aims to improve the energy efficiency of privately owned residential buildings and increase the use of renewable energy and local energy production. The energy renaissance strategy has been developed by the City of Helsinki and part of it has been funded by the EU project mySMARTLife. The energy renaissance strategy will be openly published for all interested parties soon.
The most impressive action of the energy renaissance strategy is to provide for condominium owners engineering help and support in finding out how to carry out effective and financially viable energy renovations. During 2021, the new team of energy experts will support condominium owners. The most significant energy renovations can usually be done during other major renovations of condominiums. For this reason, the team of energy experts starts operations in areas with a significant number of apartment buildings erected between the 1960s and 1980s that now need to be renovated. The support provided by the city is free of charge.
Social sustainability is linked to the energy renaissance strategy
The energy renaissance strategy promotes climate-friendly housing by focusing primarily on technical actions to reduce the energy consumption of housing and by introducing renewable energy production methods. The aim is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by diminishing the need of energy production and switching to renewable energy sources.
However, sustainable and climate-friendly housing always includes a social dimension. This can be understood by looking at the chain reaction triggered by the energy renaissance: energy renovation lowers heating costs and increases living comfort. As the comfort of living improves and the energy bill decreases, the value of the home is maintained or even increased. Renovated houses with moderate housing costs affect the attractiveness and image of the area more broadly. By understanding the links between energy renovations and the social impacts in the area, at the best, inequality and segregation of residential areas can be reduced when high-quality housing is possible regardless of the income level.
At its best, the energy renaissance can also promote equality in housing by providing support and energy advice to areas and target groups that need special support. This requires cooperation with urban research in order to set the specific features of neighborhoods and regions as a starting point for action. In addition, there is a need to identify other social features connected to the areas, as well as to understand which opportunities residents actually have to promote climate-friendly housing.
The Decarbon-Home project contributes to a better understanding of the social perspectives of climate-friendly housing
The Decarbon-Home project addresses climate-friendly construction as well as the social dimensions of housing, which have received only little attention so far. The aim of the project is to search for and develop resident-oriented solutions to the challenges of climate change and residential segregation. The project produces information on, for example, the values of citizens and the everyday conditions of climate actions from the citizens’ point of view. In addition to sparsely populated areas, the project pays special attention to suburbs, where extensive renovations are topical, and which offer many opportunities to reduce energy consumption. In addition to Helsinki, the target cities in the project are Joensuu, Turku and Vantaa.
The Decarbon-Home project also examines the conditions of particularly vulnerable groups, such as the elderly and immigrants, to reduce the energy intensity of housing and the adverse effects of climate change. The Decarbon-home project, planned for six years, has received funding from the Strategic Research Council (SCR) established within the Academy of Finland. Funding for the first three-year period (1.10.2020-30.9.2023) has been confirmed, on the second period will be decided later. Read more about the project on its website.
The energy renaissance actions to improve the energy efficiency of existing building stock
- Energy experts provide practical assistance to condominiums and strengthening residents’ involvement through free advice.
- The city’s processes are going to be clarified. Residents will be encouraged to switch to renewable energy and existing plots will be allocated more building rights where possible.
- Energy efficiency targets are taken into account in the city’s strategic programmes and policies, such as building regulations and regional development plans.
- Cooperation is actively maintained, because without cooperation between different sectors, the energy renaissance will not progress over a sufficient period of time.
The whole potential of the energy renaissance strategy to promote social sustainability has not yet been identified with certainty, but the work is at an excellent start. The Decarbon-Home project is currently conducting a study to map the everyday experiences and values of city dwellers in relation to climate-friendly living.
Do you want to take part in a study of the everyday experiences and values of city dwellers in relation to climate-friendly living? Register for the survey by answering the pre-survey (only in Finnish!): https://link.webropol.com/s/decarbonhome.