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New UNECE Report about the state of multi-family apartment buildings in Armenia is out

Recently, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) published three in-depth national studies focusing on the state of residential building stock in Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, and the Republic of Moldova.

The UNECE was set up in 1947 and it is one of five regional commissions of the United Nations. UNECE's major aim is to promote pan-European economic integration. UNECE includes 56 member states in Europe, North America and Asia and over 70 international professional organizations and other non-governmental organizations take part in and help UNECE achieve its objectives.

As a multilateral platform, UNECE helps in achieving greater economic integration and cooperation among its member states, as well as it promotes sustainable development and economic prosperity.

Out of all sectors of economic activity, the buildings sector has the largest potential for cost-effective improvement in energy efficiency and emissions reductions.

To help capitalize on this potential, UNECE has developed the three studies under the project “Enhancing National Capacities to Develop and Implement Energy Efficiency Standards for Buildings in the UNECE Region”.

The purpose of the study for Armenia

The "National study and detailed gap analysis between the performance objectives of the Framework Guidelines for Energy Efficiency Standards in Buildings and implementation of current building energy efficiency standards in Armenia," is a report analyzing the energy performance of buildings, implementation of current building energy efficiency standards and providing country-specific recommendations to bridge gaps and enhance national capacity to develop and implement energy efficiency standards for buildings.

The main purpose is to highlight the state of multi-family apartment buildings (MFABs) in Armenia, especially concerning their energy performance. The report also includes some other important elements, such as the status of legislature and audits regarding energy performance in Armenia, as well as many other relevant policy and project highlights that succeeded in uplifting the situation in Armenia.

Important findings

The national study in Armenia revealed that buildings are one of the major sources of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). 18 per cent of the total GHG emissions is from fuel consumption in the residential buildings. The share of the residential buildings in total final energy consumption is 38 per cent. At the same time, the building sector presents significant energy saving potential, which can be realized through the effective use of modern energy efficient technologies and practices, reinforcement of robust certification systems for energy efficient buildings, and energy efficiency lending by international and local financial institutions. The Government of Armenia has put efforts into effective enforcement of recently adopted legislation in the building sector. Some relevant technical regulations and standards have also been adopted to improve the effectiveness of the whole regulatory system in the building sector.

The report itself outlined the major deficiencies of MFABs, as well as some recommendations that should be taken into consideration, not only when it comes to the renovation of energy inefficient buildings built in the second half of the 20th century, but also when it comes to relevant legislation, maintenance, and cooperation between the major parties interested in improving Armenia's situation. In a major move, the report also drew attention to the fact that Armenia should be inspired by the way other post-socialist states dealt with these buildings, such as Czechia or Poland with their establishment of associations of housing unit owners, which centralized all the relevant decision-making, thus making renovation and upgrades easier.

As an example, energy audits of multiple residential buildings proposed a standard set of measures which can bring to as much as 65 per cent energy consumption reduction:

A success for Habitat for Humanity Armenia

We are very glad to see Habitat for Humanity Armenia's long lasting efforts mentioned in the document, where UNECE recognizes their hard-work in partnership with universal credit organizations, with whom Habitat Armenia implemented housing microfinance projects that helped low- and middle-income families receive loans from financial institutions to improve their living conditions. These families used the loans to renovate and repair their homes, improve energy efficiency, and to create access to renewable energy. Through its housing microfinance projects, Habitat Armenia also provides technical assistance to families and partner financial institutions through training programs, construction technical advice and informational brochures. Other programs involve renovation of common areas of residential buildings, residential energy efficiency for low-income households and access to renewable and efficient energy in the municipalities of Vayk and Spitak.

Apart from these activities, Habitat Armenia has long been working on reforming the legislation on the management of multi-apartment buildings. The Armenian government reformed a law according to Habitat Armenia's recommendations in late 2020, which had been advocated for since 2015. According to this law, each building shall have a separate bank account for the management of its funds, which will increase the overall transparency of the fund management for each building. For more information, you can check this blog.

Conclusion

Armenia has a considerable untapped potential to improve the energy efficiency of its buildings, but several barriers and challenges must be addressed if notable progress is to be achieved in the coming decades.

In some cases, deep renovation is not possible in only one step, mostly because of the high initial investment. International collaboration is likely to remain the key for ensuring both the short-term success and the long-term viability of Armenia’s efforts. Best EU practices, already applied is some countries, show that renovation can be a long process that allows measures to be done step-by-step to maximize the final effect and reduce the energy consumption as much as possible.

As the report summarizes, Armenia still has a long way to go when it comes to energy efficient renovation. Despite this, the work that has already been done in rejuvenating the building stock makes a case for any future projects, as there definitely is a need and will to do more. The only thing that remains is to get the work done.

Renovation: Staying on top of the wave is a new publication by FEANTSA. In early December, 2020, FEANTSA organized a dedicated online roundtable where this new report, commissioned to Catrin Maby, Member of Welsh Government advisory group on housing decarbonisation and Member of British Standards Institute Retrofit Standards Task Group, was launched. During the event, Catrin Maby gave a presentation about the report. This presentation was followed by an open discussion, with contributions from Ciaran Cuffe, MEP from Group of the Greens, and Paula Rey-Garcia from the European Commission DG Energy - Energy Efficiency Unit. We would like to thank FEANTSA for organization of this event. We very much appreciate the opportunity to contribute to this discussion by our presence and to have a chance to put more light on REELIH project and the special case of privately owned multi-apartment buildings in Eastern Europe and the challenge they pose for energy efficiency retrofits and alleviating energy poverty.

About Renovation: Staying on top of the wave

This report is a continuation of FEANTSA's activities to contribute to the effective implementation of the Renovation Wave under the European Green Deal and to highlight the potential social risks associated with energy renovation programs.

"Low-income groups are most impacted by the climate crisis and energy poverty, and their needs must be addressed by the Renovation Wave going forward."

The report reflects upon the current situation in the EU where more than 50 million households experience energy poverty. It means that these households are not able to afford the energy they need to meet their basic households needs, such as heating, cooling, hot water, or domestic appliances. This is an issue resulting from energy inefficient buildings and appliances in a combination with low household incomes and high energy costs. FEATNSA, in this publication, provides a comprehensive analysis of different energy renovation and retrofit projects, with a particular focus on social element of this process.

FEANTSA defines a "win-win-win" scheme which should serve as a guiding principle when working on alleviation of energy poverty. The three wins are:

Assuring that all the three “wins” are met after the instalment of energy improvements in buildings is a challenging task and is affected by multiple factors. The aim of this report is to highlight the risks connected with the implementation of energy improvements so that all social groups benefit from the renovation works equally.

For the analysis, FEANTSA selected numerous examples to illustrate both positive and negative impacts and outcomes of energy projects. All of the examples are projects including energy improvements, but at the same time, not all of them are primarily focused on energy. One of the chapters is dedicated to projects which ended up having unintended negative impacts. In this way, FEANTSA was able to identify the risks connected with energy and renovation projects for future use. Lack of longer term monitoring and the evaluation of energy renovation programs, including their social impact, are identified as crucial step for more comprehensive understanding of complex renovation works.

REELIH project as an example of good practice

REELIH project, provided by Habitat for Humanity International with a financial support from USAID, was identified by FEATNSA as one of the successful projects serving as an example of good practice. Our project is showcasing how to work on energy efficiency improvements in multi-apartment buildings with a high number of homeowners. According to FEANTSA, REELIH's emphasis on providing solutions for low-income households recognizes the social need that must be addressed. Our example is included in Chapter 3 on Programmes to support lower income home-owners to renovate, which presents a specific approach to housing energy renovation due to its specific support provided for low or medium income private home owners.

Positive and negative social impacts

Based on the analysis of selected projects, FEANTSA was able to create lists of both positive and negative impacts of renovation works with an emphasis on social aspect.

Positive social impacts

Negative social impacts

Recommendations

For the final part of the report, FEANTSA prepared a set of recommendations for future projects based on their findings. Among their recommendations, you can find:

 

It is indeed a success for REELIH project to be presented as a good practice in yet another publication. We very much appreciate another FEANTSA's recognition of our project and USAID's financial support for this project, too.


Find more information about FEANTSA here.

Find more information about Renovation Wave here.

Find the fact sheet about Renovation Wave and the European Green Deal here.

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