A Meeting of Minds

14 April 2021 - Published by Deirdre Buist
On 8th April Stronghouse partners from research and knowledge institutes participated in an online work session to exchange ideas, update each other on activities and jointly explore further potential synergies. This ‘meeting of minds’ provided a valuable opportunity to connect in a more focussed context, with a view to sharing analyses of the energy renovation market and collaborating on the development of capacity building solutions.

The Robert Gordon University (RGU) from Aberdeen, kicked off a series of presentations. Within the Stronghouse project, RGU is developing an App/web-based tool to help homeowners understand the various housing typologies and support the decision-making process regarding energy renovation. Their first step has been to review existing online self-assessment tools; their inventory includes input from other partners and the exploration of other initiatives such as Request2Action, a EU project on Intelligent Energy. While all knowledge partners are very interested in the outcomes of this comparative analysis, RGU invites them to continue sharing relevant  findings and exemplary regional tools to add to their dynamic list.

Market research

The Swedish partners from Linnaeus University then shared their research progress regarding the energy renovation market and the hindrances faced by stakeholders. They’ve been collecting data, held a survey amongst 13,000 respondents, are collaborating with local energy and climate advisors to inform homeowners and are continuing the development of a one-stop-shop business model. The University offers several energy-related Master courses. PhD students are closely involved with the Stronghouse project, as is the case at Gothenburg University. Current thesis work with regards to energy renovation dives deeper into design solutions, economic analyses, municipal strategies and public operational support systems.

We can also tip that Linnaeus PhD researcher Georgios Pardalis is defending his thesis on the One-Stop- Shop on 23rd April and  the zoom event is open to the public.  All interested parties can follow the link for further information and to join.  

Blockchain & Green Bonds

The Blockchain Lab at the University of Gothenburg is part of the Division of Informatics. Here they focus on the development of digital literacy and the interaction between people and technology. Presently they are working closely with partners from SPRING to develop a financial tool using blockchain architecture. This digital tool can be used by both banks and homeowners, for instance. Homeowners can check their eligibility for a ‘green mortgage’ while banks can use blockchain to discuss loan possibilities and gain insight into which Green Bonds have been issued using EU taxonomy. Blockchain is used to maintain a transparent ‘ledger’. The primary benefit of using this technology is that investors in green funding can also see that the funds are being used as intended.

The Blockchain presentation triggered an eagerness to increase exchange on this topic and we recognized the added value of potential cross-overs with another Interreg NSR project – BLING (Blockchain IN Government). More to follow.



Banks & EFCs

Belgian knowledge partners at Vives University College took over the screen to highlight their Stronghouse research strategy which focusses on SME involvement, Local Energy Communities and cooperation with the City of Roeselare. Besides running a survey amongst the reals estate sector, they remain in close contact with banks - to define key moments for energy renovations, for example – and are running ‘one-stop-shop’ pilots with Roeselare. Vives is also educating bank employees on how to use the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) database (EPC is the energy label now required for every building) as a tool to interpret and anticipate when discussing green mortgage loans. However, the reliability/validity of the EPC is still a topic of discussion in some countries. Vives would like to compare these energy labels and their usage in the different partner regions as this could result in interesting lessons learned.

Defining roles

Finally, the University of Vechta, Germany, shared their analysis of the different roles in the housing energy sector which determines who is involved and the relationships between the various actors. By studying the links between tenants, homeowners, SMEs, services and finance institutes, they aim to improve the interconnections of these energy networks. While COVID restrictions have hindered the organisation of focus groups, Vechta’s ‘plan B’ now involves a software solution to help unite these groups. However, as with everything in these strange times - it does remain a challenge to connect the energy consultant with the plumber, for example. The University of Vechta has also just launched the first Stronghouse App to help homeowners monitor their energy consumption.

Robust networks

Wrapping up, our knowledge partners concluded that the working session was both enlightening and encouraging. Despite the fact that a physical partner meeting has yet to take place, this meeting of minds has helped to strengthen our connections and confirmed we’re all still on track. While discussing the potential for even more collaboration, through shared courses for instance, plans are also in the make for a published paper on Stronghouse insights to disseminate results.

The academic world has numerous robust networks and access to many active platforms through which to communicate. So, let’s stay in touch!