Our Buildings supports multi-level governance dialogue on building renovation in Bulgaria

Over the summer, the Our Buildings partner Eneffect visited four pilot municipalities in Bulgaria to support the systematic data collection of the building stock for the finalisation of local renovation strategies in close cooperation with mayors and local experts.

by Dragomir Tzanev, Our Buildings

Published: 18 September 2020

With the official public consultation on the LTRS being completed, it can be affirmed that Bulgaria has a policy framework supporting renovation to ambitious levels of energy efficiency, targeting 80% specific energy savings and 27 billion Euro of investments for the >120 million m2 built area planned for retrofitting until 2050. The authors of the strategy – the Sustainable Energy Development Agency, officially announced on several occasions that they used the templates for LTRS development provided by Our Buildings, which helped a lot to streamline cost-optimality calculations to strategy’s ambitious goals.

However, the targets for the public building stock are still quite ambiguous – only 17% are aimed to be renovated until 2050 with the arguments that privately owned public buildings are excluded, a significant portion of buildings owned by the local and national authorities are already renovated and many of them would not be needed anymore due to the negative demographic conditions, such as young people leaving the cities and closing cultural and educational facilities as a consequent.

Former cinema in Lyaskovets, Photo: Eneffect

Our Buildings, however, counters these negative assumptions with a hands-on approach, turning energy efficiency into something more than pure saving of energy and maintenance costs. It is rather perceived as an instrument for accelerating the economic viability of the regions and cities, turning the demographic trends around and reactivate desolated buildings. The strategies developed under the project include both an in-depth analysis of the public building stock and a vision for deep renovation related to improved functionality of the buildings. Thereby, benefits for the local population are pointed out helping to attract investments and new businesses.

In June-July 2020, representatives of EnEffect visited 4 out of the 5 Bulgarian pilot municipalities in the project – Smyadovo, Lyaskovets, Berkovitsa and Kula.

Renovated and non-renovated building blocks in Smyadovo subsidised by the local administration, Photo: Eneffect

The mayors and local experts were directly involved in the planning process; the initiated process of systematic data collection and management proved to be a steep learning curve in itself, yielding informed decisions and identifying trigger points for further action. Through the use of a newly designed online information system, various analytical reports and graphs were visualized, resulting in the identification of specific actions to be carried-out in the mid-term period, targeting a phase-out of the direct use of fossil fuels and outlining the potential for full decarbonisation by 2050 through intensive integration of renewable electricity in the local energy mix.

As a result of the promising outcomes of the prepared strategies, additional support has been received by the EUKI programme for the development of a renovation roadmap for one demonstration building per municipality, showcasing the project’s innovative approach. Considering the different needs of the municipalities, the buildings of choice vary, but one principle stands out: all selected objects are of big significance for the local communities and small businesses. The municipal administration in Berkovitsa will be turned into a net-zero energy building, in Smyadovo a former monastery is being refurbished to host a day-care center for elderly people, and in Kula a former youth center will be completely renovated. Finally, the old cinema in Lyaskovets will become a shared working space for municipal officials and local SMEs.

The path is clear: energy efficient building renovation is one of the most promising means to keep our local communities vital and vibrant. By re-using the old building structure, carbon emissions are saved and synergies for the community life is created counteracting the demographic trends. Our Buildings shows this transition to policy makers and residents which might trigger a revision of the 17% building renovation target of the LTRS.

Buildings in the pilot municipalities planned to be renovated. Photos: Eneffect, Our Buildings