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Why does the future of the European Union climate goals depend on housing managers?

Climate change affects every region of the world. The polar ice caps are melting, the sea levels are rising. Extreme weather events and rainfall are becoming more frequent in some regions, while others are suffering from increasingly severe heatwaves and droughts, and these changes are expected to intensify in the coming decades. One of the main drivers of accelerated climate change is CO2 emissions and the extensive overuse of land resources. But oftentimes we think of these problems as something far-off and do not concern us. But this problem is a lot closer to home than most would have thought. Literally.

The wasted energy

Collectively, buildings in the European Union are responsible for 40% of the total energy consumption and 36% of greenhouse gas emissions, which, according to the 2020 report of the European Commission, mainly stem from construction, usage, renovation, and demolition. Improving energy efficiency in buildings, therefore, has a key role in achieving the ambitious goal of carbon-neutrality by 2050, set out in the European Green Deal.

Today, roughly 75% of the EU building stock is energy inefficient. This means that a large part of the energy used is wasted. Such energy loss can be minimized by improving existing buildings and striving for smart solutions and energy-efficient materials when constructing new houses. 

Europe needs to improve the energy performance of its buildings. Renovating existing buildings could reduce the EU’s total energy consumption by 5-6% and lower carbon dioxide emissions by about 5%. Yet, on average, less than 1% of the national building stock is renovated each year. (Member State rates vary from 0.4% to 1.2%.) In order to meet these climate and energy objectives, the current rates of renovations should at least double. So, rather than just concentrating on new buildings, the bigger challenge is in moving the existing building stock towards low energy standards.

The missing knowledge

Today, it is common for owners of apartment buildings to delegate building maintenance to a professional housing management company. This is the practice in both Western and Eastern Europe. However, in the former Eastern Bloc countries, there is a heterogeneous structure of apartment owners, and most often the owners are natural persons also living in their solely owned dwellings.

The proficiency of the housing manager in administrating buildings and communicating with the owners plays an important role in improving the general conditions and energy efficiency of the building. Usually, the housing management is provided by a private company, which has several competitors in the market, all of whom are concerned to provide an appropriate service. A housing manager is a figure, who has all the instruments to initiate and implement projects that would increase energy efficiency in the buildings.

Unfortunately, many housing managers do not have enough knowledge in this process and are being encouraged to act neither by the customers/ owners nor by the state. Therefore, while creating new policies on how to boost the renovation wave in Europe, housing managers should be prioritized, as they are able to play the most important role in bringing the EU building stock to net-zero by 2050.

“In order to achieve the building energy efficiency objectives specified in development planning documents of Latvia (NAP 2027, NEKP 2030, and the Strategy for Building Renovation), adequately educated house administrators skilled in the field of energy efficiency are required to implement measures for increasing energy efficiency and to ensure proper maintenance of buildings following the implementation of said measures,” says Ineta Geipele, Head of Department of Construction Entrepreneurship and Real Estate Economics and Management of Riga Technical University (RTU).

Closing the gaps

One of the instruments to strengthen the impact of the housing managers could be additional or obligatory certification of the managers. Currently, there are no consistent requirements for housing managers and only a few member states including Latvia require specific education in order to undertake the management of a real estate property, which results in unavoidable gaps in skills and competencies while managing buildings, especially when organizing renovation processes. Therefore, the German association of real estate managers (Verband Immobilienverwalter Deutschland – VDIV) developed training for local housing managers focused on implementing energy efficiency measures in multi-family houses, which is called Klimaverwalter (Climate administrator).

“The experiences of the course make it clear that climate and building protection in a residential property cannot succeed without qualified housing managers. They are crucial as intermediaries at the interfaces between owners, tenants, service providers, construction companies and energy consultants to enable energy efficiency measures in homeowner associations,” says the president of the German umbrella association of real estate managers (Dachverband Deutscher Immobilienverwalter – DDIV) Wolfgang D. Heckeler.

Change in competencies, change in attitude

The modular certificate course “Certified Climate Administrator (DDIV/EBZ)” is funded by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety as part of the National Climate Protection Initiative. Based on the various phases of the refurbishment process, this course uses attendance blocks, webinars and self-study phases to impart construction, installation technology and legal expertise as well as knowledge of financing and funding in order to be able to competently accompany and coordinate refurbishment processes. In addition, key competencies are promoted, for example, for project and conflict management. The first pilot training was finished by 22 practitioners – housing managers, who are successfully adopting the acquired knowledge in their daily work.

“Holistic fiduciary building management also concerns building protection from the point of view of energy efficiency. We have created a further training offer that closes an important gap and promotes competencies that are indispensable especially for managers without technical departments,” says Klaus Leuchtmann, CEO of the European Training Centre of the Housing and Real Estate Industry (Europäisches Bildungszentrum der Wohnungs und Immobilienwirtschaft (EBZ)), explaining the special benefit of the format.

There is still a long way to go. Having qualified housing managers is not enough to achieve the climate goals by 2050. There is the place for improvement in the general image of a housing manager – effort needs to be made to make the profession more attractive and respected in society because of the large role every housing manager plays in the renovation process. This could be done by improving the administrational skills of the managers and providing transparency of the services and costs. Another important component would certainly be increased financial benefits or additional funding, which could rapidly improve the quality of the services housing managers are providing.

The importance of housing managers is severely underestimated – they could provide the biggest impact in solving many of the energy efficiency problems in the EU. The current attitudes towards this profession must change – they are the leaders of the approaching renovation wave. And the new training program certainly aims to change these attitudes. 2050 might seem like an eternity away, but, as time has proven more than once – it flies by with an incredible speed.

Professional training for housing managers in Poland and Latvia will be developed and presented in 2022. Further information will be available soon, but in the meantime – make sure to follow us on social media and get ready for the approaching renovation wave!

Development and implementation of training curricula for housing managers, focusing on implementing energy efficiency measures in multifamily housing (MFH) is now underway. A new approach will be prepared for transfer to Poland and Latvia from Germany, where innovative curricula and training for professional housing managers have been developed. CLI-MA began in October 2020 and will conclude in March 2023. The project is implemented in the framework of the European Climate Initiative (“EUKI”) 2020.