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About TripleA-reno

Oct 22 2021 | Written by C. Knubben |
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As projects are coming to an end, looking back at what was achieved is an obvious task. For TripleA-reno, EU Sustainable Energy Week did a good job at summarizing some of the main project achievements. In fact, they nominated our work for the EUSEW Citizens’ Award with 5 other projects which exceled in engagement or innovation in their pursuit to “reinvent Europe’s energy landscape”.  

The nomination is not a coincidence. TripleA-reno really was a project focused on engagement, particularly with the people who will (or might) potentially be thinking about investing towards renovating their properties. Specifically, it aimed at making building renovations Affordable, Acceptable, and Attractive. This mission involved ethnographic research that covered the entire building renovation process – from steps that lead towards making a decision, to the actual renovation process, and finally the reflection on the buildings. TripleA-reno researchers approached the people living their case-study buildings to get a deep understanding of what building renovation means for them. The result of these interactions was a set of insights, valuable for understanding people’s behaviour and decisions regarding energy use and housing renovation.

Among the most important conclusions of TripleA-reno ethnographic research is that the notions of affordability, attractiveness and acceptability are understood differently in different socio-cultural contexts. During the decision-making process, people evaluate renovation projects based on their existing knowledge, experiences, social norms they practice, and other contextual factors. A significant one is interpersonal relations between involved stakeholders. For example, many people find renovation unattractive not only for the virtually inevitable disruption of their everyday life, or doubts in reliability of the project (potential technical complications). They find it unattractive because they lack trust in the people they must collaborate with to make the project work, such as product suppliers, building managers, building contractors, their neighbours etc.

Notions of trust, empathy, and even solidarity turned out to be especially significant and sometimes even the most important “make-or-brake” factors. That proves particularly true in the contexts of bigger, more complex projects that involved several decision makers and other profiles that enable building renovations (professionals from the construction and renovation industry, administrative officials, suppliers of products and services etc.). As it turned out through TripleA-reno ethnographic research, references to troubling interpersonal relations, conflicting interests, and even corruption are nothing unusual in building renovation projects. Despite this, building these projects are typically heavily focused on technical and financial aspects, overlooking important aspect of human interactions and human relations. Unsurprisingly, this often leads to complications and even failures of renovation projects.

All of these outcomes indicate towards two seemingly intuitive and yet often overlooked facts. Firstly, that buildings are not simply a sum of its material elements that they consist of, but they are essentially social objects with a variety of social functions and meanings attached to them. Secondly, all of the processes and practices related with buildings, including building renovation, should be considered as a social process. They are directly or indirectly influenced not only by people who make decisions, but by a wide range of actors, including everything from children to pets, plants, cars, furniture, building systems, available local infrastructures etc. None of these should be altogether dismissed from consideration when deciding and planning for the renovation, but people in particular should never be treated as a generic or negligible implication, as is often the case.

In conclusion, in TripleA-reno we consolidated our understanding of building renovation – people are key and they should not be simplistically reduced to their roles and functions, such as investors, consumers and end-users, producers, suppliers, contractors etc. They must be included in building renovation processes, listened to, and taken into account for who they are, not what they are. This can hardly be done by platforms and algorithms. The ultimate lesson, which was confirmed by the EUSEW nomination in its own way, is that human-to-human interaction is absolutely central, and should be made at least as important as any other technical, material, or practical aspect of tools and solutions that we are developing to promote and support building renovations. While TripleA-reno has certainly done a step in the right direction (e.g. through the TripleA-reno board game), this challenge needs to continue to be addressed in the future.

 

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