In this series of articles, WorldGBC’s Director of the Europe Regional Network, Stephen Richardson, speaks to the eight pilot cities involved in BUILD UPON2 (BU2) – the world’s largest collaborative project on building renovation.
Each city is working with its national Green Building Council in the development and testing of a ground-breaking new Framework. This Framework allows municipalities to measure and quantify the impacts and benefits of building renovation — encompassing social, economic and environmental benefits. By capturing this crucial local data, cities can identify renovation best practice, which can then be scaled up and inform national policy decisions.
This municipal approach is key to delivering the European Commission’s Renovation Wave, a programme that aims to renovate 35 million of the bloc’s buildings by 2030, as well as achieving the EU Green Deal’s vision of a climate-neutral Europe by 2050.
For this second instalment on the city of Budaörs, Stephen Richardson spoke to Sándor Szabó, Project Coordinator, Mayor’s Office, Budaörs and Éva Beleznay, Senior Sustainability Consultant at the Hungary Green Building Council (HuGBC).
This blog explores how Budaörs is gearing up to implement the BUILD UPON2 Framework, including:
A suburban town with a population of over 30,000 citizens, Budaörs is the ‘western gate’ of neighbouring Budapest, with direct connections to Vienna in Austria and Lake Balaton — the largest lake in Central Europe. With its close proximity to the rolling Buda Hills, the town has charm outside the bustle of the capital city, while its favourable business tax rates has created a mini boom in companies taking residence here.
Most of the town’s buildings were built after the 1970s, however, with a particular drive occurring between 1981-1990 to construct large panel system (LPS) apartment blocks.
View of Budaörs from Törökugrató Hill
These types of buildings became especially popular in East Germany in the 1960s, before being adapted by Hungary. LPS blocks were built at a time when there was no energy efficiency regulation and they are not traditionally renowned for their architectural value, but the local government has worked to make them more attractive to inhabitants. Today, these neighbourhoods and buildings are fully renovated.
“[They are] creating flowery parks, spacious playgrounds and renovating the buildings. The suburban parts of the settlement are becoming increasingly popular among those who want a pleasant, calm living environment instead of the hustle and bustle of the metropolis.” — Sándor Szabó, Project Coordinator at the Budaörs Mayor’s Office.
This renovation programme of the LPS blocks has formed a key part of the city’s climate action, which saw it achieve the target of its previous Sustainable Energy and Climate Action Plan (2012-20) (SECAP) of a 20% CO2 emission reduction two years early, with a 23% reduction in 2018. Energy efficiency improvements of public buildings and renewable energy investments have also played a role in achieving this milestone.
Examples of renovated LPS blocks in Budaörs
However, while renovation is constantly underway in the public buildings of the city, the Budaörs renovation programme lags behind, mainly due to a lack of resources, adds Szabó. The local government often has to prioritise renovations which eliminate risks of structural problems, accidents, and immediately necessary repair work, over energy efficiency upgrades in its public building stock and fundings.
There are initiatives underway to improve this — for example, there is an energy-efficiency tender that supports the modernisation and renovation of ‘traditional or industrialised’ residential buildings. There has been a significant increase in the number of applications submitted and grants received in recent years for this scheme, which also allows the municipality to monitor the renovation of part of the city’s building stock. However, this only accounts for a relatively small proportion of the city’s built environment.
Using the BUILD UPON2 Framework will allow Budaörs to measure and scale up its renovation activity, with energy efficiency a key part of its newly established climate targets. By helping the city identify what renovation initiatives are successful and which are less so, the Framework can serve as a valuable tool for Budaörs to create its building renovation strategy. Building on the success of its previous SECAP, the Municipality of Budaörs has already adopted a goal of reducing CO2 emissions by 40% by 2030, and an ‘almost fully decarbonised building stock’ by 2050.
“Joining the BUILD UPON2 project, using the Framework, and developing a building renovation strategy can effectively support the implementation [of our climate targets],” — Sándor Szabó.
The city recognises that it cannot achieve its emissions targets without accelerating renovation, especially as over half of residential energy use is heating, and it believes the Framework will help it develop its building renovation strategy. While the city has not yet adopted the Framework, HuGBC has begun onboarding municipality staff.
“We are making the foundations for the implementation by introducing [the Framework] to those responsible for dealing with building renovations — not only the technical staff, but also involving social and financial departments in the process” — Éva Beleznay, Senior Sustainability Consultant at the HuGBC.
“This reflects the wide-ranging data required by the Framework on the social and economic impact of renovation, such as energy poverty and financial savings for residents. Also, to overcome the lack of data, we are introducing the Framework to the responsible national bodies (Ministry of Innovation and Technology, Prime Ministry, Lechner Knowledge Center, Hungarian Energy and Public Utility Regulatory Authority) as well as financial institutions to initiate and to lay the foundations for a multi-level data collection system,” she adds.
However, the Framework does present challenges to the local government. Data on the city’s buildings is lacking, with no centralised statistical data available on the city level, only in the 10-year census. Elsewhere, General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) laws prevent access to building permits and energy audit documents which are handled by the national government. The Framework has also raised the issue of the absence of data on social indicators like indoor air quality and winter and summer thermal comfort levels, since there is currently no legal requirement to measure this.
These issues will need to be overcome, and the municipality will now build a pilot knowledge base for social data in collaboration with HuGBC, using its own building renovation programmes as it begins to use the Framework on a daily basis. Budaörs will initially track renovation on the city’s own building stock and buildings renovated via city funding towards energy efficiency improvements.
Sándor Szabó is very positive about the benefits that Budaörs will experience through its involvement in BUILD UPON2: “By using the Framework, in addition to monitoring the technical, social and economic data of municipal building renovations, the local government will also get a better picture of the achievements and progress of building renovations in the private residential and commercial real estate portfolio. With the information thus available, city management can make better and more informed social, economic, and environmental decisions in the field of sustainability and climate protection.”
Stephen Richardson is Director of Europe at the WorldGBC.