Social housing buildings are typically targeted towards low-income populations. They can be subject to different legal status and can represent a considerable percentage of the total housing stock in certain EU countries. Adapting or renovating social housing to improve its energy efficiency generates savings for both tenants and the public administration bodies or companies that manage social housing. In addition, when an administration body refurbishes a building, it has the opportunity to improve the well-being of tenants at the same time as reducing energy consumption. These types of interventions can also contribute to improving the social and health environment of the tenants (for example, improved welfare, reduced fuel poverty, improved living environment and better opportunities of social interaction for elderly people).
In addition to the best practices that can be adopted to improve the energy efficiency of public buildings, this section focuses on social housing buildings that have their own peculiarities (different sizes, specific accessibility needs, shared facilities and so on) and includes examples of refurbishments and conversions to social housing of buildings with a previous different use.
Local residents should be involved in the process of planning and designing the renovations so that their needs are taken into consideration and they feel engaged in the process and have a better appreciation of the social, economic and environmental benefits. Involving tenants also guarantees a better use of the building and its features to make it more efficient, which will lead to better overall results.
Successful strategies to engage tenants include a consultation process with the different parties involved (such as residents, associations, developers and technical services), establishing a show apartment or meeting with tenants to explain the features of the energy-efficient homes, and providing guidelines and tips on how best to use them.
Although it is crucial to design and build new buildings according to energy-efficiency criteria, it is no less important to take into account energy efficiency when renovating existing buildings to improve their energy performance. This is even more important considering that new constructions only account for about 1–3 per cent of the total building stock each year.