A housing company on Kivelänkatu reduced their heating costs with the help of an energy renovation. (Fotographer: Jussi Rekiaro)

An engineering team assists housing companies with energy renovations

The energy efficiency of nearly all residential blocks of flats in Helsinki can be improved in way that is financially beneficial for the homeowners affected. However, it is not always easy for housing companies to identify the benefits of energy renovations, and carrying them out may seem difficult. In recognition of this, the City of Helsinki has started offering free-of-charge expert help to private housing companies to inspire more of them to start planning energy renovations.  

Energy Renaissance team deployed to help housing companies  

Energy renovations mean measures for improving the energy efficiency of a building or adopting renewable energy. For blocks of flats, energy renovations can mean the adoption of geothermal heating systems, the installation of a heat recovery system or improvements to thermal insulation carried out as part of a modernisation project, for example.  

This spring, the City is campaigning to encourage all housing companies to look into measures that could provide them with financial benefits.  

It is possible to improve energy efficiency in almost all buildings. The biggest financial gains can be acchieved in blocks of flats built before the 21st century. At best cases energy renovations can help blocks of flats cut heating costs by as much as half, as a result of which they can also have a major impact on living costs.  

The Energy Renaissance team established under the City’s Building Control Services provides housing companies in Helsinki with free-of-charge engineering assistance for facilitating the planning of energy renovations. The team will start its work in early March, and its services are aimed at residential blocks of flats.   

“You can invite one of the City’s energy experts to attend a housing company meeting to discuss what kind of energy efficiency survey would be the most useful to commission, for example. We can also help the boards of directors of housing companies with the different stages of planning renovations. The City provides impartial support. The housing companies utilising the services are still responsible for the actual planning, decision-making, realisation and payment,” explains Team Manager Aleksi Heikkilä.   

According to Heikkilä, the Energy Renaissance team will strive to help all housing companies that contact them, so people should not hesitate to reach out. The team is hoping to receive contact request particularly from Eastern Helsinki, which statistically has the highest number of blocks of flats built in the 1960s–1980s. These are just the type of building awaiting modernisation that usually benefit the most from energy renovations. 

Financial support also available for renovations  

With the services provided by the Energy Renaissance team, the City will help housing companies tackle the problems that typically hinder energy renovations. Facilitating renovations and the related permit processes can often be challenging for housing companies. Determining the different funding options and financial impacts can also seem difficult.   

“For example, not everyone is aware that in Helsinki, blocks of flats can often undergo energy renovations in a way that does not require their company charge ( yhtiövastike) to be increased at any point due to the renovations, as the entire project can be funded with the savings resulting from it. The reduced heating costs start to eventually generate savings, and the value of individual flats also increases,” Aleksi Heikkilä says.   

This year is the perfect time to look into energy renovations, as ARA is offering energy subsidies for carrying out energy renovations until 2022. Housing companies can be granted EUR 4,000–6,000 per dwelling in subsidies for carrying out energy renovations.   

Housing companies play a key role in Helsinki’s climate efforts   

The City of Helsinki is supporting housing companies with energy renovations because the energy consumption of buildings is the single largest source of carbon dioxide emissions in Helsinki. The energy consumption of dwellings and other buildings accounts for over half of Helsinki’s total carbon dioxide emissions. 

In order for Helsinki to accomplish its goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2035, about 350 housing company renovation projects are needed yearly. In fact, energy renovations are the most effective climate action that a housing company can take. The establishment of the Energy Renaissance team to help housing companies is one of the actions of the Carbon-neutral Helsinki 2035 Action Plan.   

Improving energy efficiency is also a key goal in all of the City of Helsinki’s own new and repair construction projects. However, buildings owned by the City only make up approximately one sixth of all the buildings in Helsinki. Since Helsinki has a very high proportion of blocks of flats, the energy efficiency measures and energy renovations of housing companies play an essential role in reducing emissions and mitigating climate change.    

Additional information: