SUstainable Building Renovation – Forming the Future (SURF)

European municipalities as drivers of the Renovation Wave

Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH), Ae3R and Energiaklub implement the SURF project, funded by the European Climate Initiative (EUKI), to stimulate deep and sustainable building renovations by empowering municipal actors to foster and implement sustainable renovation projects. We are convinced that municipal decision-makers and professionals in cooperation with local stakeholders can trigger a paradigm shift in sustainable energy renovation from the ground up.


The building sector is a key leverage point to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 36% of the CO2 emissions in the European Union originate from the building sector. Thus, the European Union aims at reaching a climate- neutral building stock in 2050, which is only possible through intensified renovations.

Although public buildings should act as role models for private sector renovations, renovation rates in Germany, Hungary, and Romania are significantly lagging behind the average annual renovation rate required by the European Commission.

Main elements of SURF

  • Transnational workshops: SURF brings together 2-4 forerunner municipalities in transnational workshops with municipalities from Germany, Hungary and Romania to learn from their experiences with best practices and successful concepts.
  • Online training: SURF addresses capacity gaps by providing a circular building training series as well as useful resources and guidelines.
  • SURF network: To amplify the impacts created, the project aims to establish the new transnational SURF network, to support the exchange of practical solution. EU-wide informal online “renovation lunches” and a conference will fill the SURF network with life to help connecting municipalities and build transnational partnerships.

Circular Buildings Training

About the “Circular Buildings” online training series 

As part of the SURF project, ‘Circular buildings’ online training series are planned. The aim of the training is to address the existing capacity gap by providing up-to-date expertise and thereby strengthen the skills of municipal stakeholders from EU Member States and promote sustainable renovations at the local level. The series of the ‘Circular Buildings’ trainings includes the following three modules, each dedicated to different topic of sustainable building renovation:

  • Module 1: Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and climate-friendly building materials (Ausgust 31, 2023)
  • Module 2: Financing options for sustainable building renovation projects (March 21, 2024)
  • Module 3: GPP procedure: Integration of 'green' criteria in public procurement procedure for buildings (tbd)

Module 1: Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) & climate-friendly building materials (past event)

Date: August 31, 2023

The EU Renovation Wave and the Circular Economy Action Plan set the course for delivering more sustainable buildings through intensified renovation activities. However, life-cycle assessment (LCA) or circular solutions find little or no practical application in the building sector in EU countries. In addition to the need for more financial support for municipal renovations, there are still challenges for municipal actors in terms of capacity and know-how on sustainable refurbishments.

To address these knowledge gaps, on August 31, 2023, we kick-started our "Circular Buildings" online training series with Module 1, which focused on LCA and climate-friendly building materials. Eva-Maria Friedel, senior researcher at Bauhaus Earth (tbc), introduced the training participants to the life cycle assessment, a tool that allows understanding the energy use and other environmental impacts associated with all stages of a building’s life cycle: site selection, design, construction, operation and maintenance, refurbishment and renovation or demolition. In addition, we heard some inspiring good practice examples of climate-friendly renovation methods (with clay, straw, hemp, paludiculture plants or circular construction/renovation) from Dr. Ipek Ölcüm, CEO Industrieverband Lehmbaustoffe e. V., Michael Burchert, CEO Bauwende e.V., and Dominik Campanella, CEO Concular GmbH.

Module 2: Financing options for sustainable building renovation projects (past event)

The European Commission encourages Member States to use EU funding to implement national, regional and local support schemes to promote sustainable building renovation. However, the investments necessary to increase energy efficiency in buildings are already reaching a level that cannot be covered with public money alone. The EU invests €85-90 billion annually in the energy efficiency of buildings through public programs, while the renovation of existing buildings alone will require additional investments of €275 billion per year to reach the 2030 climate targets (COM). Therefore, the mobilisation of private capital for climate-friendly construction and renovation is crucial. As an important link between investors, industry and homeowners, local authorities need to familiarise themselves with the financial instruments and determine the most suitable ones for successfully implementing sustainable renovations at the local level. 

In this context, Module 2 of the online training "Circular Buildings" was dedicated to financing options for sustainable building renovation projects. In Module 2, Mathieu Daloze from the European Commission (DG Energy) gave a detailed overview of the EU policy framework and EU financial programs for building renovations with relevance to local governments. In addition, Pablo Baigorria Kobylinski from Creara, a Madrid-based consultancy, introduced the training participants to innovative financing tools such as on-bill and on-tax schemes, energy performance contracting (EPC) as well as green mortgages, loans and bonds, while also discussing their advantages and disadvantages. Both presentations were followed by two good practice examples. Samuel Bretillot from Île-de-France Region introduced presented the Region's framework for green and sustainability bonds for green buildings, while Ly Loss from the Estonian Business and Innovation Agency KredEx shared Estonian experiences in financing sustainable building renovation projects, including with the help of the KredEx Revolving Fund.

Recording and presentations from the event: 

Online Renovation Lunches

The EU Renovation Lunches are a new online format, which brings together municipalities, local and regional authorities and stakeholders from all over the EU. It provides an open and informal space to exchange about best practices, learnings and difficulties in implementing renovation but also to find partners for cooperation and support.

June, 28, 2023 | see presentation

The EU aims at an annual 3% renovation rate of buildings. However, we are far away from a Renovation Wave as the current renovation rate is roughly at 1%. Building renovations decrease energy consumption while reducing energy poverty and at the same time mitigating CO2-emissions to reach the EU climate targets. Municipalities and regions play a major role in facilitating building renovations. Unfortunately, financial questions often pose obstacles to renovation activities. Effective and easy financing models are needed.

The Rhodoshop project from Bulgaria represents such an example. In the first Online Renovation Lunch, Zlatka Nikolova from the Association of Rhodope Municipalities and Ivanka Pandelieva-Dimova from the Sofia Energy Center exchanged insights, successes, challenges and insights about the Rhodoshop project to introduce a one-stop shop (OSS) for energy renovation of buildings. OSS offers integrated renovation solutions with the main aim of simplifying the building renovation process for the property owners. It is intended to accelerate building renovations by informing, motivating and supporting building owners throughout the energy renovation process. In addition, OSS can facilitate access to financing, occasionally offer better interest rates and also improve the average depth of renovation in terms of energy performance.

February 20, 2024 | see presentation

In the second edition of the Online Renovation Lunch, Alessio Colombo, CEO and Cofounder of CLEVER Cities project shared insights, successes, challenges and learnings of  his project and its sustainable material use. The CLEVER Cities project has retrofitted four towers of social housing owned by the Lombardy region, public residential buildings. Their entire facades were renovated using rice husks. Allessio Colombo gave the participants insights into how the use of rice husk was a solution regarding sustainability issues as well as into the challenge regarding financing.

Transnational Workshops (only for project participants):

May, 10th, 2023 | Online |

During the online workshop, participating municipalities were introduced to the SURF project, the policies and goals for sustainable renovations at EU level, and the idea and importance of sustainable renovations. The municipality of Steyerberg (Germany) shared their best practice experience of sustainable renovation. In the second part of the workshop, the results of the participating municipalities’ discussion revealed that several participants still have little knowledge about sustainable and especially circular renovation of buildings. The discussion showed that sustainable renovations in Romania, Hungary and Germany face the following obstacles: (1) financial challenges, (2) lack of knowledge about sustainable materials, (3) lack of specific legislation on green public procurement and (4) acceptance of the costs of life cycle assessment. Most of these know-how-based barriers will be addressed through the capacity building activities of the SURF project.

Here you can read the presentation of the municipality of Steyerberg and the DUH presentation on the project.

September, 4th to 6th | Luckenwalde and Berlin |

Participating municipalities from Hungary, Romania and Germany will visit the forerunner municipality Luckenwalde. The building design official will give a tour through energetically renovated districts introducing to their solutions of renovation finance, proceeding, renovation methods and further relevant aspects. Participants will also get the opportunity to visit a building in Berlin that has been renovated with circular materials. An expert from the Urban Mining Hub Berlin will highlight the sustainable renovation features.

November 28th | Online |

In this last international peer-to-peer workshop, another forerunner municipality will share their best practices. Further, there will be a discussion on how green public procurement can improve the sustainability of building renovations. Since it is the last of three workshops, participants will also get the opportunity to plan the implementation of the learning on sustainable building renovation in their own municipality.

For inquiries and questions, please feel free to reach out to the contact persons listed.

Participating municipalities

© Bauverein Halle
© Stadt Halle
© Stadt Steyerberg
© Stadtwerke Crailsheim
  • Ajka
  • Alsómocsolád
  • Budaörs
  • Pilisborosjen
  • Szászvár
  • Szeged
  • Ploiesti
  • Mizil
  • Lipanesti
  • Magurele
  • Floresti
  • Banesti
  • Valenii de Munte
  • Tinosu
  • Targsoru Vechi
  • Gura Vadului

Implementing partners

Contact info

Copyright: © Erdmann / DUH

Maren Streibel
Advisor Energy & Climate Protection
Tel.: +49 30 2400867-920
E-Mail: Mail schreiben


Jurga Tallat-Kelpšaite
Advisor Energy & Climate Protection
E-Mail: Mail schreiben

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