One of the objectives of the project RES4Build to engage relevant stakeholders in co-designing low-emission Integrated Energy Systems (IES) for meeting current needs and future expectations in buildings. For that, co-creation processes have been conducted in seven buildings, four in Poland and three in the Netherlands. The case study buildings have been selected for their different functions to learn about commonalities and differences across building types, such as multi-family buildings, a commercial industrial plant, a school building, community centres, health care real estate and a multifunctional event building complex.

For each building, a technical assessment has been carried out to analyse the status and technical and economic shape of its existing energy system, with a focus on the system for heating, ventilation and air-conditioning as these aspects are most applicable for replacement by the RES4Build IES technology solutions. Based on this assessment, for each building opportunities could be identified for replacing the current energy system with improved systems, including IES. Examples of such opportunities are the existence of problems with ventilations leading to insufficient indoor comfort or almost economically written off technology systems.

Starting from this technical assessment co-creation activities have been organised for each case study so that building stakeholders could be consulted about their needs and priorities for future energy systems in their building. With that the report builds further on the concept developed by Spijker, et al. (2020) which stipulates that IES’ market potential (and that of other potential clean energy technology options) can only be optimally utilised if the technology fits in the building (technical feasibility), a solid financial model for its implementation in the building can be developed (financial viability) and stakeholders accept the technology as being in line with their needs and preferences (social acceptability). The better these three conditions are met, the stronger the potential for IES in existing buildings.

With stakeholders, the seven case studies elaborated on these three conditions to conclude whether IES will be feasible, and if so, within what timeframe and under which financial model it could be implemented. Technically, IES opportunities have been identified in nearly all case study buildings, especially as IES can be efficiently combined with existing rooftop solar PV and heating systems or could be integrated in already planned energy efficiency improvements. Technical obstacles or barriers often relate to, e.g., insufficient (metering) equipment, lack of space for deep boreholes for energy storage, or need to strengthen rooftops for additional PV panels.
From a financial perspective, particularly the Polish case studies identified some financial obstacles for IES, such as the change in the legal environment for solar PV exploitation which has made the existing prosumer system less attractive for building owners. Also, the relatively long payback times (often more than 10 years) for relatively expensive IES options, together with necessary thermo-renovation measures, has been considered a financial obstacle. Both the Polish and Dutch case studies have illustrated how the energy price increases during the first half of 2022 have triggered interest of building owners and users in investing in energy efficiency measures.

The case studies also have provided a wide range of organisational and stakeholder-related aspects that could stand in the way of successful IES implementation. For example, for the Dutch case studies it can be concluded that while the technical and financial obstacles are solvable and rather easily outweighed by technical and financial opportunities, organisational bottlenecks could hamper implementation of IES solutions. For example, when a building faces a short-term urgency to invest in energy efficiency measures, but a building renovation is planned within ten years, including dismantling and reconstructing (parts of) the building, only solutions can be considered with a relatively short payback time. This could exclude IES as these options often have a longer payback time. Also, case studies have demonstrated how limitations within the organisation of sustainability improvements of building can paralyse investment decisions. The cases have described situations in which for a building is subject to a policy or owner’s decision on sustainable energy improvement, but the stakeholders individually do not have the capacity nor have a clear incentive to undertake investment actions, such as on IES. In case of the multifamily buildings, it has been highlighted that IES would require a common decision making, e.g., via energy cooperatives, instead of each homeowner associations having to take individual solutions.

Generally, the case studies have shown that, while substantial in several case studies, finance and technology-related challenges are often solvable, but require early-on involvement/inclusion of relevant (external) expertise for coherent, integrated planning. Moreover, building specific IES solutions in multi-stakeholder contexts are relatively easy to implement as the building context and preferred solutions are generally homogenous. Instead, when considering IES solutions for a more heterogenous real-estate building portfolio, such as in the Dutch case study for multiple health care buildings, more heterogenous technology packages and finance solutions are required, which can easily lead to a quickly growing information and data intensity and emerging micro-management, rather than overarching guidance and decision-making.

In terms of participatory opportunities, both Polish and Dutch case studies have explored, with stakeholders, the benefits of collaboration between buildings and their owners. In the Polish multifamily buildings and the primary school and kindergarten cases, the option of establishing energy cooperatives has been highlighted as a solution to supply renovated settlements of buildings with RES from PV farms and use of building-level heat pumps. In the Dutch case studies, it has been explored how reaching out to neighbours or adjacent parks and districts could strengthen the potential for IES, as it could help collectively produce, store, and distribute energy produced via IES, and strengthen the business model for that. Finally, both in the Polish and Dutch case studies, it has been found that stakeholders in general are (increasingly) aware of the benefits of energy system improvement and several case studies also experienced that building management has been receptive to suggested improvements, to be even carried out in the short term, albeit not all directly related to IES.

The full report (D4.2) is available here:

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