The Affordable Housing Initiative Tech Camp explores the role of technology in improving energy performance and living conditions


The Affordable Housing Initiative Tech Camp was co-organised by ECTP and Housing Europe, as part of the Affordable Housing Initiative in the context of the International Social Housing Festival 2023 in Barcelona. During the event, Suppliers met Providers to discuss exactly how. Ready-to-market sustainable products and services, novel technical methodologies and smarter approaches were also presented.

8th June – DAY 1

In his opening speech, Housing Europe’s President Bent Madsen posed a fundamental question: how can different technologies be combined to achieve successful renovations that have people at their centre? Indeed, refurbishment is often done in a conventional way with a focus on energy efficiency, while there is an urgent need to establish a new paradigm, a “social refurbishment”. According to him and to ECTP’s president Paul Cartuyvels, the emphasis should be not only on climate efficiency but also on addressing pressing social issues such as social integration.


Martin Willemart, Policy Officer at DG Grow, opened the session by talking about the Affordable Housing Initiative and its aim to support the renovation of 100 lighthouse districts by 2030. He underlined the strengths of the project: the focus on the district scale and its potential to stimulate EU-level cross-sectorial partnerships to foster innovation. Afterwards, Sorcha Edwards, Housing Europe’s Secretary General, stressed the importance of involving tenants throughout the entire renovation process. The three sister projects drOp (Naia Merino), Super-I (Paola Zerilli and Riccardo Coletta), and ProLight (Momir Tabakovic) were showcased, leading to discussions about one-stop-shops (OSS) and how to preserve knowledge after project completion.


Enrico Grillo (SEQUAS), along with Albert Terrones (Municipality of Matarò) and Gert Eyckmans (VVH), discussed the barriers that impede district renovations and strategies to overcome them. They highlighted the (too) slow pace and the negative environmental impact of construction works and buildings, stressing the need to enhance the competencies and skills of subcontractors. According to some speakers, the challenge lies in making green and high-quality projects the mainstream solution. Renovation was also recognised as a tool to prevent segregation, but it was emphasised that vulnerable communities need more support in a long-term vision for successful renovations. The importance of connecting accessibility with innovation was also noted.


Javier Martin Ramiro from the Ministry of Transport and Urban Agenda of Spain shed light on the challenges faced in maintaining the housing stock in Spain, characterized by being old  and having low energy performance certificate (EPC) ratings. The majority of apartments in Spain are owned by individual owners, complicating the decision-making process and posing a challenge in achieving the target of renovating 300,000 units by 2030. Structural measures and loans were identified as necessary for boosting activity in the medium term. Andoni Hidalgo, from Euroiker, presented the Opengela project, which set up some one-stop shops in the Basque Countries to advise inhabitants on the renovation throughout the process, but also to address elements such as accessibility, with a special focus on vulnerable groups who could not access bank loans. Next, Muris Kodžaga, representing Hilfswerk International  Social Housing Systems pilot project (SHS) implemented in Bosnia and Herzegovina. SHS combined the construction of six social housing units in different locations with the development of a legal framework for social housing in the country. Paula Ferrando (GNE Finance), and Nerea Gómez, (ECTP) concluded the session with an update on the development of the Blueprints for Replication for successful integrated district-level renovations, which are part of the European Affordable Housing Consortium/SHAPE-EU project.


The first day of the Tech Camp ended with a fruitful debate on how the use of data can be integrated in social housing to better achieve energy efficiency. Elissaios Sarmas (National Technical University of Athens) explained how machine learning can improve decision-making processes as it provides a standardised way to collect and analyse data. He then showcased an energy financing tool created in the context of the Matrycs project by using the results of the DEEP project that can forecast building consumption based on historical data. Then, Guillermo Andrés Nieto (Veolia) presented the Matrycs Toolbox, which, once ready, will enable reliable policymaking, as well as support the creation of innovative services through the use of a wide variety of data for the effective operation of buildings.

9th June – DAY 2


Alexis Versele from KU Leuven presented the new building typologies that he and his colleagues are working on by focusing on modularity, circularity and bio-based elements. He also introduced the topic of “Lego-isation” of construction, consisting of the reconfiguration of common pieces such as windows, doors and wall panels which can be fit together in different combinations to develop homes of different sizes. This approach leads to benefits in terms of speed of development, but also of reduced environmental impact and adaptability to market conditions. Following, Gaetano Bertino (alchemia-nova) discussed the need to move away from the linear economy and towards a more circular frontier. For example, buildings account for around 35% of the resources used in the EU, such as materials. Alchemia-nova is expert in green facades and nature-based solutions, with a focus on creating sustainable water cycles. Gaetano also explained his work on creating so-called ‘pop-up’ buildings to meet temporary housing needs. Lorena Rodriguez Lara from ‘360 Climate Change Solutions’ in Spain has developed a new type of mortar, “without sand”, called “Bio-EcoMatter”. Given that traditional sand-based cement generates around 8% of global GHG emissions and that we will need 230 million tonnes of cement between now and 2050, this approach based on agro-industrial waste is seen as more sustainable, while being also lighter and cheaper.


How can we improve energy performance in buildings? With this question, Jan Buyle from Knauf Energy Solutions kicked off the Tech Talk about new energy efficiency systems in construction or renovation. The main points of improvement we should strive for are: a result-oriented market, clear ROI and the adoption of a new learning cycle based on real measures. Occupants should have a better understanding of the impact of renovations and there should be a new business model that includes precise performance contracts, grid management etc. Following, Xavier Dubuisson presented RetroKit, a SaaS platform that supports social housing providers in optimal investment decision making in home energy renovation and that drives productivity in the value chain and reduces costs. Finally, Otto Höller (tafkaoo architects) presented the successful renovation project of Nettelbeckplatz in Berlin, which is part of the housing co-operative 1192. The renovation consisted of the expansion of the ground-floor zone with the creation of a living area for older citizens and student apartments, the construction of a new residential building and the renovation of the existing settlement.


Luis Ignacio Suarez (IDONIAL Technology Center) presented the AM-PLATFORM, standing for Additive Manufacturing, which has as the goal to foster a quick market uptake, and it is free for everyone who wants to be present on it. Oksana Talisainen, a representative from the Mustamäe District, in Tallinn, showcased a pilot project consisting of renovating the communist blocks (Khrushchyovkas).Traditional renovation can indeed be very time consuming, as in Estonia workers can work on the exterior façade only from two to four months a year. Paul Dufraisse talked about the EnergieSprong programme and the Giga Regio Factory project and their contribution to the emrergence of a net zero market segment. Finally, William Nelissen (Cordium) presented the Sociale Energy Sprong project, which entails 3-d scanning, BIM modelling and co-creation with contractors and all stakeholders before and during the renovation of a social housing complex in Hoeselt, Belgium.


This very last session of the Tech Camp focused on how digitisation intends to transform the existing and new buildings into an active element rather than passive, enabling it to adapt to the dynamic environment and to occupants’ requirements. This will optimize the energy consumption and give provision of assessment of the live energy performance of a building. Ian Pyburn, from IES R&D Ltd, a software company offering building analysis, spoke about what elements should be taken into account when needing to decide between retrofit or demolition and explained how implementing a digital twin can allow for a physics enabled simulation by using real and virtual sensor data. Then, Elena Conte took the floor to present the NEMESIS project. The main objective of the project is to provide a digital platform to address and reduce the energy consumption but also to plan the most optimal investment based on Smart Readiness Indicator Calculation Module, an Investment Planning one, and a BMS Extension. Last but not least, Gregory Clare introduced the audience to the Switchee platform. His initial question was: “how can data help us identify households at risk if fuel poverty?” He argued that we need to start using data in order to help tenants, because we cannot see what issues people face in their homes. A very compelling example was the one of an elderly lady living in the United Kingdom, who only turned on heating on Christmas day in December, when her family would come to visit.

Watch the recording:




Day 1


Day 2

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