Module 3. Better housing – healthier, more efficient and citizen friendly buildings and districts

Cities consume up to 80% of global primary energy. According to the European Commission, “buildings are responsible for approximately 40% of energy consumption and 36% of CO2 emissions in the EU. Currently, about 35% of the EU’s buildings are over 50 years old and almost 75% of the building stock is energy inefficient” (EC 2018).

Improving the energy efficiency of buildings should be made a core element of every revitalization process. Enhancing building energy performance will significantly:

reduce the risk of illnesses caused by poor indoor climate: e.g. irritations of the eyes, nose and throat, mental fatigue, headache and sleepiness, etc. [University ILR 2002]; and enhance the overall comfort and well-being of occupants;

improve energy savings for private budgets: savings can be up to 50% of a household budget (Roadmap 2050); and help to mitigate the risk of energy poverty for many disadvantaged households;

stimulate the economy: according to the EC, the construction industry generates about 9% of Europe’s GDP and accounts for 18 million (direct) jobs (EC 2018).

Eastern Europe is facing dramatic air pollution due to high concentrations of particulate matter emissions (PM10 and PM2.5) as well as a very high concentration of carcinogenic benzo[a]pyrene (mostly as a result of emissions from the domestic combustion of coal and wood). According to The World Health Organization, Poland is host to 33 of the continent’s 50 most polluted cities (WHO 2016). The Polish National Emission Balancing and Monitoring Centre noted that household heating with solid fuels (mainly coal) in Poland accounts for as much as 86% of benzo[a]pyrene concentration and around 50% of the PM10 and PM2.5. Hence, the low quality of air in Polish cities is largely the effect of heating with low grade coal in outdated, inefficient and highly emission-intensive installations.

Experiences from revitalization programmes implemented to improve air quality in several Polish city centres have proven an important nexus between air pollution and energy poverty in Poland. According to the Ubóstwo energetyczne w Polsce (Energy Poverty in Poland) report, 44% of the Polish population (17.2 million people) spend 10% of their income on energy and heating requirements (ISD 2015), thereby fulfilling one of the most common definitions of energy poverty.

Interventions conducted by several local governments in Poland within the revitalization framework and  focusing purely on replacement of heating sources (especially in historical buildings) have led inhabitants of the area into energy poverty by increasing heating costs beyond what they can afford. The thermo-modernization of buildings is a crucial challenge in Europe and, because of the nexus between air quality and energy poverty, a must for revitalized areas in Polish cities. The Module delivers an overview of solutions, technologies and indicators for better assessing and implementing comprehensive building thermal-modernization at the district level.


1. Present current legal framework for the Energy Efficiency on a district level with special attention to deep building thermal-modernization

2. Describe risks linked to the silos approach towards revitalization: inefficient solutions e.g. energy poverty trap, capital  lock-in in unsustainable solutions, etc.

3. Confront presented risks by promoting good practices of energy related district refurbishment involving energy efficient (climate and air friendly) solution and installations for buildings as well as  districts,  among them:

  • inspiring solutions for the local sustainable, district heating,
  • highly efficient co-generation installations
  • examples of deep building thermal-modernization,
  • choice architecture leading inhabitants toward energy efficient choices and behaviour.