Brussels calls for a ‘renolution’ to upgrade homes in response to energy crisis
Skyrocketing energy prices, the climate crisis and Renolution – Brussels’ new sustainable home renovation strategy – are key contributors to the sharp increase in demand for home improvement help in the capital.
Renovation advice network Homegrade and Réseau Habitat has been set up by the Brussels Region and provides subsidies for property upgrades.
Presented its figures at a press conference in Brussels, they said there were 23,000 calls for renovation aid in 2022, compared to less than 10,000 in 2017, they said. Meanwhile, 2,805 households were helped last year: an increase of 11% compared to 2021; 70% were low-income families.
“Our top three requests are for information on subsidies and urbanistic and technical questions,” said Homegrade’s Didier Van Severen. The main concerns are insulation, window frames and roofs.
Van Severen explained there were so many calls for photovoltaic panels that, “we no longer do home visits just for this.”
2050 carbon neutral goal
And with Renolution’s goal to make Brussels carbon neutral by 2050, subsidies – it has a €53 million budget for 2023 – are no longer given for gas boilers, and only for low-temperature radiators.
“The maximum percentage of work that can be covered by Renolution subsidies is 90%,” Brussels Environment’s Pascale Hourman told the Bulletin. “On average, if you take all types of work and income categories combined, we are currently at 30%.”
Renolution’s target is to achieve an average energy performance of 100 kWh/m2/year in all Brussels’ buildings by 2050. This is equivalent to an energy certificate (PEB – performance énergétique des bâtiments), which will be compulsory for all new homeowners by 2027, of C+ in a range from A to G.
Concretely, this means that energy consumption must be cut by two-thirds; today’s PEBs are an average E or F.
Free independent advice
Homegrade and Réseau Habitat are working to achieve this goal by offering advice, free from commercial pressure, on how to renovate homes in a high-quality, durable way, Réseau Habitat’s Marilène De Mol told the Bulletin.
Homegrade replies to proactive calls from individuals. Réseau Habitat, based in nine ‘urban revitalisation zones’: Anderlecht, Brussels, Etterbeek, Ixelles, Forest, Molenbeek, Saint-Gilles, Saint-Josse and Schaerbeek, goes out to help local communities.
Providing a range of initiatives, including ‘renovation cafés’, door-to-door meetings, workshops or information stands in local parks like Molenbeek’s Parc Bonnevie, “we can demystify the subject,” said De Mol.
“We want to reach all people, even those just concentrating on how to pay their bills with renovation furthest from their thoughts.”
The renovation drive is considered essential as a significant proportion of Brussels’ buildings were constructed before 1945. According to Brussels Environment figures, one in three buildings have no insulation and more than half of greenhouse gas emissions result from energy consumption in buildings.