More homeowners need to renovate for energy efficiency, says study


Following a spurt in renovations aimed at more sustainable living, homeowners in Flanders are less and less inclined to invest in energy-saving measures

Convincing the doubters

Too few households in Flanders are carrying out renovations for energy-efficiency, according to Essencia, a market research firm for the building sector. The firm released a report on the subject last week in the lead-up to yesterday’s Renovation Day in Flanders.

Renovation Day invites homeowners to visit recent renovations of homes in their own neighbourhoods and towns. The idea is to allow those considering renovations to see what is possible and to ask questions of architects, construction professionals and other homeowners.

While the number of thorough renovations being carried out in Flanders is holding firm, the number being carried out strictly for reasons of sustainability have been falling since 2012. If this keeps up, Flanders will not realise the goals it set in the Renovation Pact of 2014.

The Renovation Pact calls for all houses and apartments to be equally as sustainable as new building projects. One of the interim goals is for all roofs to be fully insulated, all windows to be double-glazed and old boilers to be replaced by the end of next year.

Lack of funds

Essencia carried out a survey of 1,000 homeowners and found that more than one in four roofs in the region are only partially of not at all insulated. The figures for exterior wall insulation are event worse, with 40% of households reported having partially insulated external walls or none at all.

“As 2020 is barrelling down upon us, we have to question whether reaching the goals of the Renovation Pact are feasible,” said Essencia CEO Bieke Gepts.

The firm identified two reasons why homeowners are no longer enthusiastically carrying out energy-saving renovations despite government subsidies being available: Lack of funds to carry out renovations and doubts about the value of the investment.

An expert can help determine which energy-saving measures would be fiscally advantageous

- Essencia CEO Bieke Gepts

“Starting in 2012, the government of Flanders has supported renovations with all kinds of subsidies,” explained Gepts, “and the wealthier families, triggered by the fiscal support and the desire to contribute to sustainability, took action. Convincing the doubters requires extra effort.”

While subsidies are welcome, renovations are still a major investment for most homeowners, with 43% of those who did renovate saying they took out a loan to pay for it. Another 58% of respondents said they wanted to carry out renovations last year but could not afford it.

In addition, many don’t see the point of renovations that aren’t structurally urgent or required. More than one in three respondents thought that the cost of carrying out renovations for energy-efficiency was more than the return would be, said Gepts. But most of those respondents had not consulted an architect or energy expert to confirm that.

Gepts: “An expert can lead consumers in the right direction, helping them to determine which energy-saving measures can be carried out that would be fiscally advantageous.”

Flemish households need to see the bigger picture, concluded Gepts. “The massive numbers at climate marches illustrate that Flemish people want to spur policymakers into action. But maybe homeowners need to look at their own situations first and consider what they can contribute with an energy-efficient home.”

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