Drivers and benefits for district-scale energy refurbishment

Tarja Häkkinen, Mia Ala-Juusela, Tarja Mäkeläinen, Nusrat Jung (Corresponding Author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Existing building stock is responsible for a significant share of energy consumption in cities, consequent emissions, and effects on climate change. Energy refurbishment of buildings can have an essential contribution to sustainable strategies of cities in Europe. District-Scale Refurbishment (D-SR) has many benefits compared to single building refurbishment, but some barriers have delayed the realisation of district-scale projects. This article aims to explain the importance of district-scale approaches for energy-efficient refurbishment and presents the findings related to the need for a new-type of role needed to accelerate district-level energy-efficient refurbishment projects, defined as an “activator”. Threefold methodology was applied to conduct this study including (1) a literature review to analyse issues that enable or hinder district-scale energy refurbishment of existing buildings, (2) twenty-five semi-structured interviews were carried out of pioneering representatives of architectural engineering and construction (AEC) in Finland and the questionnaire was designed to encompass Osterwalder's business canvas approach. Thematic findings were identified based on the qualitative results of the interviews. The results of this study demonstrate that while district-scale refurbishment is seen beneficial in many aspects, it requires new roles, and an activator is needed to initiate and possibly lead the process. At the same time, the role of the municipality emerged as extremely important as an enabler by supporting flexible town-planning, open information, strong support for citizens' participation processes and by providing incentives for starting the process. The optimum profile of an activator is very demanding, requiring skills in process understanding, networking, and collaboration, in addition to expertise in energy solutions and technologies. This role could be taken by, e.g. contractors, project managers or engineering companies. The major challenge remains concerning who would pay for the role of an ‘activator’ during the initial stages of D-SR. This could be solved e.g. through a national incentive or the activator could be hired by the municipality. The value proposition should be for the end-users and could be based on (a) saving or increasing the value of a residential flat, (b) improving the living environment and increasing the attractiveness of the district, (c) improving well-being, or (d) easiness of refurbishment process.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)80-95
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2019
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Activator
  • Buildings
  • Business model
  • District
  • Energy
  • Energy-efficiency
  • Refurbishment
  • Renovation
  • Sustainability


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