Thanks to the EU funded project ProRetro, Energieagentur Landkreis Böblingen, the energy agency in Böblingen district, now acts as a One-Stop-Shop for homeowner associations. In the case of an energy renovation of a residential building, it serves as a first point of contact and supports the renovation from the initial decision-making process to implementation. For this, it does not matter if a deep renovation or only replacing the heating system is planned.

During the project’s design phase between June 2020 and September 2021, the energy agency developed a business model. This business model encompasses advising homeowner associations about current regulatory conditions, informing about grants, and helping the homeowner association in a neutral and impartial way to come to a decision. In addition to this initial advice, the energy agency also offers to give an informational presentation at a homeowner association meeting and accompany the homeowner association during the construction phase of the renovation measure(s). During the implementation phase of ProRetro, which began in September 2021, the energy agency is available as impartial adviser and supports measures that the homeowner association has decided to implement. This blogpost hilghlights experiences from the implementation phase thus far and show how a future-proof concept for a One-Stop-Shop was established in Böblingen district.

Experiences made during the implementation phase

Within the implementation phase of ProRetro, the Energy Agency Böblingen district has already been able to support 136 homeowner associations from the district. Most of those were supported with an initial advice session or by giving a presentation at a homeowner association meeting to inform about energy renovations. Experience shows that especially initial advice and informing about feasibility, possibilities for implementation, funding and legal regulations at a homeowner association meeting are important for helping the homeowner association to decide about an energy renovation. This is where the foundation for acceptance is laid by ensuring that all owners have the same level of knowledge. On this basis, the owners can make a well-founded decision about which measures are sensible and should be implemented. Due to rising energy prices and difficulties in procuring energy and raw materials, it is increasingly evident that more homeowners are thinking about using renewable energies. This is reflected by a growing interest in heat pumps and heating with wood pellets among owners and shows that  many are concerned about the future-proofing the heating system and energy efficiency of their building. In general, demand among homeowner associations for the Energy Agency’s services is at a consistently high level.

If a decision is made in favor of the renovation measure or the heating system replacement, the energy agency offers further support during the implementation process. Due to sometimes lengthy decision-making processes and differing opinions, a lot of time can pass before a homeowner association decides on an energy renovation measure or a heating system replacement. The figure above illustrates the process of a renovation and how the Energy Agency accompanies it. A renovation brings with it various challenges for the homeowner association. Besides differing interests between landlords and owner-occupiers, personal concerns also play a role. Due to different views and positions, the process can stretch over several homeowner association meetings. This is partly remedied by the recast of the Condominium Act, which eases decision-making through the possibility of a simple majority vote. The financial resources and reserves of a homeowner association also often determine the implementation of a measure. In this case, the Energy Agency supports homeowner associations with its network. It informs about financing options and advises on the use of soft loans and grants. The search for suitable contractors is also sometimes difficult. Here, the shortage of skilled workers makes itself felt through long waiting times for quotations and the implementation. Regardless of whether it is an energy renovation or a heating system replacement, imparting necessary information in an easily understandable way is key to implementing a renovation of a multi-family home in a timely and succesful manner. The feedback we have received so far from homeowner associations has been consistently positive and motivates us to continuously improve our service and to sustainably reduce the renovation backlog among multi-family homes.  

Best-practice-example: Heating a multi-family home with a heat pump

In addition to individual interests, financing issues and lengthy processes within the homeowner associations that slow down the process, there are also positive examples in which the community is moving forward purposefully and quickly. Within ProRetro, the energy agency is currently supporting a homeowner association owning a small apartment building with 12 units.

Currently, various installation companies are submitting bids for heat pump systems, which will then be evaluated by representatives of the homeowner association with the help of the energy agency. The heat pump will be integrated in the garden of the apartment building on a slope in such a way that the noise immission and visibility for the condominium owners is as low as possible. Through the underground car park, the connection to the existing boiler room will be realised . Afterwards, the homeowner association will vote and pick one of the concepts developed by the installation companies. “The support of the Energy Agency Böblingen district through the ProRetro project offers us as a homeowner association considerable added value that we would not want to miss. Their expertise and individual advice helps greatly in the implementation of our future energy concept,” says a representative of the homeowner association. During the tendering process, the energy agency supports the homeowner association in case of queries or ambiguities and explains the facts in order to be able to classify the corresponding offers. At the beginning, the energy agency gave an initial advice and a presentation at the homeowner association meeting, where advantages and disadvantages of the various options were explained. The goal is to make a decision this year in order to start construction works in the summer of 2024. Furthermore, the energy agency will also support the application for funding and thus ensure that the maximum possible funding amount can be used for the project.  

The Energy Agency Böblingen’s future services for homeowner associations

The counselling and support of a total of almost 100 homeowner associations has shown what the need is and how the Energy Agency Böblingen district can adapt to it with its free service. Experience has shown that the focus on initial advice and the initial provision of information is the right approach.

In many homeowner associations, there is often uncertainty about the current legal framework, but also reservations about new technologies or how they work. To further ease energy renovations, the Energy Agency will initiate an online database of contractors this year, which has been created in cooperation with the district’s association of contractors. On the energy agency’s website, owners of residential buildings or apartments can look up contractors from all construction trades in the region.

The aim is to quickly find suitable companies for the corresponding requirements without recommending certain companies. Furthermore, the Energy Agency Böblingen district is currently working on acquiring new funding that will enable it to continue its support of homeowner associations for free in the future. The energy agency would like to act as the first point of contact and refer further needs to the appropriate market actors such as energy advisers, architects and contractors. The focus should then increasingly be on initial advice and encourage homeowner associations to tackle energy renovations measures in order to benefit from their advantages and make the building future-proof. Here, the concept of the One-Stop-Shop of the Energy Agency Böblingen district has stood the test of time and proved successful.