Housing Europe organised a field trip to the UIA backed project ‘Superlocal’ in Kerkrade in the Netherlands for a delegation consisting of MEP, Kim Van Sparrentak and European Commission Officials from DG Grow and the Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (EASME). Participants had the chance to meet the stakeholders that made this truly innovative, circular social housing project possible, including the Zuyd University (that led the guided tour), HEEM Wonen housing company and the city-region of Parkstad, Limburg.
Before the visit participants had the chance to learn about the benefits and barriers to develop circular building processes for social housing. Based on the examples of the circular technologies and processes tested in demo cases the discussion focused on scaling up circular solutions in the building sector that help improve the sustainability and affordability of social housing.
The group also had the chance to get on the project site and experience how ‘Superlocal’ experiments with new circular economy processes aimed at 100% reusing and recycling of materials acquired from the demolition of an outdated social housing high-rise flat. Concretely, four pilot housing units are currently built with different reuse/recycle techniques using materials acquired from the circular demolition of one of the high-rise social housing buildings. In line with circularity principles, former inhabitants will be invited back into the area. These potential tenants will be strongly involved in the co-design, operation and monitoring of the new collaborative economy services and facilities (such as a shared mobility platform and a social services centre) within the area. The project will generate 805.000 kilo of CO₂ emissions less, compared to the construction of a new high-rise flat. Besides the project will experiment with innovative techniques for water reuse by testing a closed water cycle initiative for social housing.
Commenting after the site visit, MEP, Kim Van Sparrentak (Greens, Netherlands) said:
I think this can be a good example of the way we have to look at the Green Deal and the Just Transition. We have to have a holistic view of the regions and then improve social welfare through sustainability, making sure people live in adequate housing and are proud of their region despite perhaps losing something that has been important for that region for many years.
Robin Van Leijen, Head of EU Affairs of Aedes, the Association of Dutch Social Housing Companies, a member of Housing Europe, highlighted that this is an example of their carbon neutrality ambition:
We are here in a former mining region where a lot of jobs got lost a couple of years or decades ago and a lot of buildings need to be demolished. Doing that in a circular and energy efficient way while keeping tenants involved by offering them to live in the new buildings is really an example of how you can revitalize a region like this. This shows how the housing sector can lead the way for the EU Green Deal.
Housing Europe Secretary General, Sorcha Edwards who coordinated an exchange among the participants that made the link between the local, regional and the EU level of decision making and practice, shared with the delegation the ambition of the European Federation for Public, Cooperative and Social Housing to share with the EU Institutions how the sector has long ago started delivering the ambitions of the EU Green Deal, being in place to be a point of reference for technical and social innovation:
One of the core objectives of Housing Europe at European level is to reconcile goals around Climate Change and Social Inclusion goals and what we have seen today is that there are projects on the ground which are indeed doing just that. So what we see here is that under the umbrella of Circular Economy, if we really work on engaging citizens, listening to citizens, use them to inform and to improve the projects, this can really be a success.
The event was followed by the Horizon 2020 'Drive0' project symposium on "The Maturity gap of Circular Building Technology”.
This has been the first event of a series that will unfold over the course of the year, bringing EU officials in touch with innovative housing projects that illustrate concretely the potential, the benefits but also the challenges of fair, green energy transition. Stay tuned at www.housingeurope.eu
An episode of the Housing Europe podcast ‘Making a house a home’ that was recorded on the spot, will be available soon on all major podcast hosting platforms.