A 60-year-old neighbourhood in physical degradation risked demolition. Instead it was renovated, resulting in improved living conditions and energy efficiency
A 60-year-old neighbourhood in desperate need for renovation due to decaying housing standard risked complete demolition. It lacked heating and cooling systems, leading residents to use electric heaters or portable fans, with much greater energy consumption. Individual electric heaters and storage tanks supplied domestic hot water (DHW), while ventilation was made by natural means. Initially, energy efficiency was not central to the retrofit, which aimed to improve the liveability of the dwellings and to restore consistency and homogeneity to the buildings and exterior spaces. However, in line with broader efforts to support resource efficiency and environmental sustainability, as well as to combat energy poverty, measures such as exterior wall and roof insulation, double glazing windows, the reduction of thermal bridges to address associated condensation issues were undertaken. These efforts were reinforced through the installation of an efficient heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system and a solar thermal system for DHW. The number of dwellings was reduced from 150 to 90 during the retrofit, due to a degraded and fragmented arrangement of small original apartments. By reducing the total number of apartments, the qualified living space increased and better living conditions were achieved. Together with aesthetic improvements, the retrofit succeeded in returning the dignity and identity to the neighbourhood by reducing the social housing stigma.

Resources needed

2,400,000 EUR were used to retrofit and transform 150 dwellings into 90 dwellings with improved living conditions and energy performance.

Evidence of success

Heating needs reduced by 43% (from 119.7 to 68.55 kWh/m².yr.). A cooling system improved the indoor living conditions during hot weather. The rents increased but are tied to household income. The increase in rent was offset by potential energy savings for heating, cooling and DHW, which were reduced by almost 70% with users now able to heat indoor spaces and keep the interior environment within healthy and comfortable temperatures.

Difficulties encountered

Considering the neighbourhood’s state of degradation, a strong discussion was generated whether the best solution was renovation or demolition and transfer tenants to other buildings. The final decision to renovate with very satisfactory results demonstrated that renovation was a prudent approach.

Potential for learning or transfer

Rainha D. Leonor has become the best social neighbourhood of Porto with comfort and living conditions superior to newly built neighbourhoods. The example shows the ability to improve living standards in a social neighbourhood while simultaneously enhancing energy performance. Instead of demolition, this practice illustrates the importance of exploring options for preservation of the buildings instead of constructing new ones, with the associated savings in embodied resource consumption, and demonstrates that liveability comparable to newly constructed buildings can be achieved through renovation. The rents increased in accordance with the household income but the costs savings for heating, cooling and DHW make up for most of it, illustrating it is possible to make such improvements without increasing the cost-burden among the residents. This has the potential to inspire similar actions in other places in Europe where energy efficiency measures and improved living conditions are needed.

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Main institution
Domus Social
Norte, Portugal
Start Date
January 2009
End Date
December 2014


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