Affordable housing for remodelled neighbourhoods across Europe

Press release from October 2022

Cities are as much a fact in nature as a cave, the run of a mackerel or an ant heap. They are such a fundamental part of our day-to-day life that it is hard to imagine a world without them.” These words come from American historian and sociologist Lewis Mumford, who believes that city life is able to convert power into form, energy into culture, and give rise to living symbols of art and social creativity. Although this may be true, it is also a fact that our beloved cities are one of the greatest sources of pollution. Despite accounting for less than 2% of the Earth’s surface, urban areas are responsible for more than 60% of greenhouse emissions and its building stock plays a critical role.

According to the European Commission, buildings are responsible for 40% of the EU’s energy consumption and 36% of greenhouse gas emissions. In order to achieve the EU Climate Target Plan 2030, a transition in the designing, construction and retrofitting of buildings is needed. As a result, the European Green Deal considers positive energy districts and nearly energy-zero buildings a key priority. But investments for such a transformation are high, and experts wonder how socially vulnerable people, who are dependent on affordable housing, can become part of this transformation process.

The project ProLight, which is co-founded by the EU, investigates in six neighbourhoods in Austria, Finland, Italy, Greece, Spain and Portugal on how to bring together both innovative retrofitting technologies, new sustainable business models and the participation of local citizens. “Our aim is to empower the citizens of our demonstration districts to become active and responsible partners for the necessary low-carbon transition”, says Momir Tabakovic, coordinator of the ProLight project and Professor at the Viennese University of Applied Sciences Technikum Wien. The individual districts have different approaches and will work with community managers, develop digital apps or adapt other participatory activities to improve the energy literacy of its inhabitants. The different sites will share their experiences and inspire each other, so that eventually also other districts and cities will be able to learn and benefit from the outcomes of this research.

With this innovative approach, the project hopes to increase the percentage of renewable energy consumed in the housing sector as well as to reduce energy consumption per capita, expecting to save up to 190 GWh annually. “Our long-term goal is to facilitate social housing building stocks of over 1.100 dwellings”, says Tabakovic at the project’s kick-off meeting in Vienna earlier this month.
ProLight has started in October 2022 with 16 partners from 10 countries, and will run for 48 months. The European Union co-funds this initiative with up to 2,67 Million Euros.