EcoHouse is a physical one-stop-shop for households offering all city services for sustainable building and living run by the city of Antwerp. Its focus is on energy reduction and renewables, and has a programme focused on providing support and solutions to vulnerable groups.
A one-stop-shop is a virtual and/or physical place where homeowners can find all information and services they need to implement an ambitious global energy renovation project. The buildings sector, and in particular, existing dwellings are pivotal in achieving climate neutrality. EcoHouse is a physical one-stop-shop for households offering all city services for sustainable building and living run by the city of Antwerp. Its focus is on energy reduction and renewables. It offers workshops and advice on energy retrofitting, as well as both short- and long-term solutions for saving energy and money. Antwerp’s EcoHouse plays a key role in helping encourage people to start renovation projects and coordinate them. It is open to the general public, with a substantive part of its work focused on more vulnerable groups.
Buildings, Energy Efficiency, Social Economy, One-Stop-Shop, Vulnerable Communities
From 2015 until nowadays
Scale(s) of the case analysed
Target audience and dimension
Domain(s) of application
Challenge addressed/ Problem-led approach
Impact to climate neutrality
The building sector is responsible for more than one-third of the European Union’s carbon emissions. The European Commission and other well-recognised EU institutions have issued a call for the creation of one-stop-shops to provide tailored energy efficiency renovation advice and financing solutions to homeowners. One-stop-shops can bridge the gap between households and the construction supply side. They can help increase the actual renovation rate by supporting potential clients through the various steps of the decision-making process and can play a key role in EU’s clean energy transition.
EcoHouse conducts audits and offers solutions for saving energy and money. The short-term solutions include advice on how to change behaviour to save energy, and free installation of simple energy-saving products such as energy-saving light bulbs. For more long-term and advanced solutions, EcoHouse prepares a personalised plan for investing in energy-saving infrastructure, which is based on the energy audit. For example, installing roof insulation or new energy-efficient heating devices. It then provides support to residents in implementing these solutions.
This case also stands out for offering substantive support and advice to vulnerable groups. It also has a special programme for schools, offering workshops, activities, subsidies, advice and materials to support them in fulfilling their green goals.
The EcoHouse is a space for the community where residents can find inspiration, information, advice and financial support. The place also offers meeting spaces, exhibitions related to green practices, a repair cafe, an ecoshop with books on sustainable buildings, greenery, among others.
The building is a demonstration site. It has a green roof, harvests rainwater, has very good insulation and uses renewable energy technologies.
Context & Public policy of reference
The EcoHouse is included in Antwerp’s Climate Plan 2030 and will contribute to the fulfillment of its objectives.
Innovative approach(es) addressed
This one-stop-shop plays a crucial role in supporting households to implement ambitious global energy renovation projects and save energy, water and resources. It helps them save time and energy they would otherwise spend going to different companies for different activities. Apart from accelerating building refurbishments and easing access to funding, this project stands out for its educational component. EcoHouse offers workshops and schools often visit the place to allow children to discover ways of saving energy, resources and water. EcoHouse wants to leave no one behind. That's why, it has a special programme dedicated to vulnerable groups. Another interesting aspect of this initiative is that it is a demonstration centre, and at the same time provides advisory services and helps build sustainable networks and experience exchange between builders.
The city of Antwerp initiated and coordinated this project. However, many other actors have been involved and contributed to the project’s success.
Stakeholder networks and organisational model
|Levanto (social economy association)
-Helps to conduct energy audits using trained staff on work experience placement, and offers both short and long term solutions
for saving energy and money-Trains unemployed people to carry out energy audits
|City of Antwerp
-Coordinates the project
-Administers the loans-Provides publicity and other services in the EcoHouse
|Housing, education, migrant, community organisations
|-As partners of EcoHouse, they help to reach out to people and spread the word
|Flemish regional government’s department of social economy
|-Provides financial support to the project
|Antwerp’s grid operators
|-Provide financial support to the project
|Belgian Federal Government
|- Provides financial support to the project
nteraction between participants
Political: This one-stop-shop has a locally embedded focus. In this case, the local government and many other local actors are involved, hence there is a knowledge of the local context and market that has helped facilitate access to financing and to provide solutions that are tailored to specific needs.
Economic/social:There are several services offered to people on low income. For example, low-income households that do not qualify for a loan at a commercial bank can receive a special zero interest loan. EcoHouse can also help them find and negotiate with contractors.
Technical: Levanto was fundamental in offering training and capacity-building opportunities for the unemployed, who were then able to carry out technical audits and strengthen their chances on the labour market.
Key inhibiting factors
Social: Difficulty to reach the target group of low-income households. This entailed difficulties in understanding and integrating their needs (beyond energy related issues).
Technical: Keeping it simple for the demand. Offering easy to implement solutions that bring immediate gains and help attract interest took some time. This is linked to the importance of putting needs at the centre.
Drawbacks/pros/cons of the solutions (after implementation)
-Levanto helps/helped people to strengthen their employability
- Infrastructure is well adapted to host and carry out various activities (e.g. workshops, exhibitions,etc)
- These measures contribute to reducing energy poverty; improving quality of life and helping the city meet its climate change targets.
-It requires a large investment in terms of financial and human resources
-The EcoHouse is located in only one neighbourhood
This model has been replicated in other places in the Flemish region. However, this solution is not so easily replicable, particularly for smaller municipalities, since the financial and human resources needed are quite high.
Main positive lessons/opportunities identified
- Offering easy to implement solutions that bring immediate gains helped attract interest. The city created a simple and attractive voucher with information on free energy-saving products, together with tips on how to change behaviour and save money straight away. Creating a more user-friendly application system for the audit also encouraged more people to apply.
- Partnering and spreading the word through organisations significantly boosted the response rate to the programme. EcoHouse works in partnership with a range of welfare, housing, education, migrant, and community organisations, and across city departments.
Main failures/barriers identified
- Traditional means of communication such as newsletters, especially the ones using jargon or terms like ‘energy audit’ and ‘infrastructural energy savings investments’, had little impact and a discouraging effect.