Learning more & more than learning - Stronghouse PM

10 May 2021 - Published by Deirdre Buist
The latest Stronghouse Partner Meeting took place on 4th May, once again online. As Europe slowly crawls towards a gradual re-opening, most organisations are still working from home. We’ve all become well acquainted with the technological possibilities and physical impossibilities of this pandemic, but continue to learn more from - and about - each other as the project progresses. EPCs, the heating transition, creative cooperatives and digital tools passed the revue…and a diverse collection of coffee cups.

Following introductions, updates and encouraging words on progress, Project Coordinator Hein Braaksma guided the partners through a full day of transnational knowledge exchange. Interaction and active participation remain a challenge with digital meetings, yet each Stronghouse presentation was followed by lively discussion – signifying a well-designed and structured programme, with relevant themes for the whole consortium.

EPC standards

The role and value of Europe’s Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), for example, is a subject that raised many hands in the chat following a presentation by Luke Fraser of Orkney Islands Council. Luke pointed out that the visual aspects of this certificate can activate potential customers, but there are limitations to its value as it is often inaccurate. As in many partner countries, the EPC is used when a property is transferred by sale, or before and after an energy upgrade. Current property prices are no reflection on the energy efficiency of a building but if more is invested this could prove a useful tool in the future. Various research colleagues had some interesting additions – including a pointer from Vives that they are involved in a project that compares EPC standards across Europe.

Roadmap for heating transition

The participants remained keenly engaged during a presentation on how to design a roadmap for the heating transition in a rural community, given by Jaap Lobberzoo from Noordenveld in Drenthe. As a direct consequence of the earthquake problems in the northern provinces resulting from natural gas extraction, Dutch municipalities must have a vision in place for sustainably disconnecting from natural gas in line with the ambition of climate neutrality by 2040. As Jaap indicated: “No rules, no force and no answers to all questions.” Noordenveld’s point of departure is Energetic Neighbourhoods – developing and facilitating whereby the importance of the Customer Journey is reiterated.

The ensuing discussion revealed:

  • The energy transition poses many dilemmas, some alternatives for natural gas may be temporary

  • With Municipal plans in order, much depends on citizen uptake, accessibility and affordability.

  • Transition is easier in Denmark. They’ve more experience with community/district heating, (competitive and comfortable).

  • In compact urban situation individual heat pumps can be perceived as noisy. Installation requires expertise – an opportunity for technical companies

  • Biomass is currently being used but is a questionable long-term sustainable solution

  • The ECTO grid (shared grid of thermal heat plus individual or booster heat pumps) suitable in rural areas

  • RGU shared a published paper describing decision-making criteria tools and methods.

Creative cooperatives

Bremerhaven invited the Embassy of Creators to share their challenges when creating cooperative syndicate housing. This concerns buying and renovating large, sometimes historic, buildings into separate houses– including the energy renovation. This independent concept requires a lot of like-minded people, which automatically increases social cohesion. Legal formalities often stand in the way of sustainable solutions, but these challenges can be tackled with the strong commitment of potential residents.


Digital tools

The afternoon programme focussed mainly on the digital aspects of Stronghouse. The Stronghouse E-learning customer guidance currently being designed by atene KOM, with input from the partners, was introduced so that the various steps, enabling instruments and support measures, targeted at a variety of stakeholders, could be jointly discussed. The RGU shared their research analysis of online energy retrofit tools for homeowners as part of the Customer Journey. The best tools provide a direct link for funding appropriate to the specific measure (e.g. insulation) and also to local certified contractors.  But the research also revealed gaps in the digital Customer Journey and where Stronghouse can deploy various tools (or elements thereof) to enhance this.

User Experience & Blockchain

Anton Bergh (Intern at Spring) creator of the Stronghouse homeowners’ energy survey, provided some extra design tips for successful User Experience UX (engagement and usability). The University of Gothenburg followed with a crash course on Blockchain technology and technical trust. By using this ‘open ledger’ system, investors in green energy can be assured that their capital is being used  sustainably, as intended. The Blockchain Lab also highlighted their joint efforts with Spring in co-designing a Green Bonds concept as financial tool for the energy renovation market.

Digital twins

Last up, the consortium was treated to a presentation by Valerie Barlet and Pieter van den Steen of the project DITUR: Digital Twin for Upscaled Retrofits (in which our partners Roeselare and Vives are also involved).This digital platform is a collaboration between private companies, research institutes and universities and has the same ambition as Stronghouse, namely to speed up the energy renovation process. The platform focusses on data analysis, clustering urban districts with similar reno profiles to heighten the efficient execution of renovation projects – thus lowering expenses, which is crucial. Here, Kristina Bozhkova from ProjectZero jumped in with a short presentation of the City Information Open Platform, their digital twin, to illustrate the different ways open data can be used in stimulating energy renovation (e.g. showcasing data, implementing applications and tool, engaging stakeholders).


More than learning

Transnational cooperation projects are, however, not only about the transfer of knowledge. Besides the important work and experience being exchanged, it’s also about building a team, a partnership, a lasting and expanding international network (see the NSR survey May we hear your Love Story?). These relationships are an absolutely essential factor (and fun!). In the ‘old days’ partners had the opportunity to connect more during the coffee breaks, for instance.

So, without making it complicated, we sent a simple request to ‘share your coffee moment’ thus instigating some photo swapping that reveals more about the people behind the screen  or below that desktop– if one cares to take a closer look.





We look forward in anticipation to our first physical meeting, reassured that the project is progressing well and confident that Stronghouse has got some real winners!