Buildings dating from communist times have poor energy efficiency levels. The city of Bistrița, Romania showed how to drop the energy consumption significantly with a structured, well-organised thermal-retrofitting programme. This contributes to the European climate goals and improves the living conditions of the residents.
Over half of Bistrița’s residential buildings were built before 1989. They have poor thermal properties and a low-quality indoor environment. The overall goal is to lower energy consumption and contribute to further improve the quality of life of its citizens.
Bistrița has implemented the Thermal Retrofitting Programme in 5 stages from 2007 to 2021. In stage I, the city developed the thermal retrofitting of the housing blocks. As there was a high demand for such works, local programmes from government funds were supplemented by EU funds.
After Romania joined the EU in 2007, the thermal retrofitting of buildings was funded through the Regional Operational Programme and started to be further supported under the European Regional Development Fund or the Cohesion Fund and has continued into the current programming period session of 2021-2027.
The city took the following measures:
- thermal retrofitting
- enhancing building envelopes and roofing
- installing high efficient lighting in collective areas
- installing solar panels
One challenge was the excessive evaluation procedures, which implied a high amount of human resources. The process took an average of one year from the submission to the signing of the contract.
Furthermore, technical projects had to be submitted after signing the financing contract, which was prone to causing delays.
As national legislation in construction was being modified, it blocked public procurement. Consequently, the Technical Project had to be modified, which resulted in new deadlines and new public procurements.
What was more, the financial allocations were insufficient to achieve the project’s goals.
Between 2009 and 2011, the thermal rehabilitation project operated through the local programme from government funds . It was 50% funded by the state budget, 35% came from the local budget, and 15% from the population. During this time, 24 blocks of flats were thermally retrofitted, amounting to a total of 808 apartments.
The overall project through the Regional Operational Programme 2007-2013 allowed for 32 blocks of flats to be thermally retrofitted, amounting to a total of 2270 apartments.
Due to the success of the Programme, 91 blocks were added to the Regional Operational Programme from 2014 to 2020. Finally, 74 blocks were thermally retrofitted, amounting to a total of 3236 apartments.
Thermal retrofitting in Bistrița will further continue within the Regional Operational Programme 2021-2027. The municipality has already started the process of identification and selection of potential areas.
This project contributes to improving the conditions of indoor thermal comfort, reducing heat loss and energy consumption, reducing maintenance costs for heating and hot water consumption, and reducing pollutant emissions generated by energy production, transport and consumption. Consequently, the living conditions in those apartments have been drastically improved
Since 2007, a total of 130 blocks with 6314 apartments were thermally retrofitted. This represents 28% of the close to 22,500 apartments built in Bistrița before 1990.
Learnings and recommendations
The quality of the work, as in any project, depends on the constructor. The project had some good constructors, who undertook high-quality work and were on time.
The city of Bistrița recommends these types of projects, especially when the city can profit from emerging new technologies, such as green roofs.
Anyone who wants to copy these types of projects should preferably start in areas where the need is benefitting citizens with lower standards of living. After all, thermal reconstruction adds comfort and financial benefits for inhabitants and building owners alike.