Completed Project: Energy reduction potentials of elderly people’s households

The image shows a flat that is being renovated.

By optimising their living situation, older people can contribute up to 4% to the annual energy saving objective of Energy Strategy 2050 for the heating of living spaces.

Demographic change in Switzerland will lead to a significant increase in the proportion of small and elderly people’s households, thus increasing residential energy consumption. Many factors determine energy consumption for households in general. These include living space requirements, the building’s age and energy efficiency standard, the type and efficiency of the heating system, the intensity of usage and the occupants’ behaviour. Energy consumption per person also depends on the size of the household or occupancy rate.

The NRP 71 project “Energy reduction potentials of elderly people’s households”, which was headed up by Dr Heinz Rütter, Rütter Soceco AG, and Dr Werner Hässig, hässig sustech gmbh, investigated the housing conditions of elderly people and their residential energy consumption. It also analysed their attitudes and age-specific obstacles to energy efficiency and sufficiency measures. On this basis it developed, tested and evaluated measures and incentives, and calculated the potential energy savings. The main focus was put on reducing living space requirements by promoting moving to smaller homes, structural densification measures and energy-efficient renovation. The results of the project are now available:

The study showed:

  • The living space increases significantly with increasing age. The unused energy-saving potential of older households (baby boomer generation) is very large..
  • Dealing with one's age and contemplating one’s future living and housing situation is a key factor for the realisation of energy-saving potential in elderly households. The moment when the children move out is of particular importance. However, the study shows that this is still rather a big taboo at present – getting older and the changing housing situation create uncertainty about the future housing and living situation.
  • Financial incentives have so far been perceived as insufficient or not decisive for energetic redevelopment or building consolidation. They need to be complemented by, at least, value-based approaches as well as by comprehensive information and consulting services.
  • At the level of policies and framework conditions: The financial viability (bearing capacity of mortgages) of energetic renovations and building densities for over 60-year-old people is a major obstacle. Innovative adaptations to the existing system are urgently needed. There is also potential for incentives within the framework of building legislation.
  • For the transfer of knowledge and the implementation of measures to promote energy-saving strategies, one should focus on the target groups with the greatest potential for energy savings: owners of single-family houses (SFH) and investors in large rental buildings as well as administrations and operators, and small and medium-sized cooperatives.
  • The follow-up implementation project, in cooperation with the Swiss Homeowners Association (HEV), developed, tested and evaluated a new intervention format. The interactive workshops motivated the participants to devote more time to planning their future living situation.
  • Model calculations show that the proposed energy-saving strategies have the potential to contribute up to 4% to the annual energy-savings target of the Energy Strategy 2050 for space heating. The strategies “residential mobility” and “energy-efficient renovations” have the biggest impacts.

The follow-up project by the name of “Energy-efficient living in old age” (“EnWiA” – details also available in this newsletter) has already been launched on behalf of EnergieSchweiz and with the support of the Federal Office for Housing (FOH).