It’s a simple thing but it is paying big dividends in the challenge to retrofit condominiums in Frankfurt. It is a directory of construction suppliers and energy consultants experienced in condo retrofits to help building trustees kick-start the improvements of their buildings.
But before building the directory there were a lot of steps that needed to be completed first.
Understanding the market
“In the beginning we didn’t know much about retrofitting condos – that is true of owners, suppliers and anyone else involved. The assumption was that there was no market for condo retrofits,” said Jonas Geissler, from the City of Frankfurt.
The city of Frankfurt set out to understand the market, raise awareness of the potential in renovating condos and crucially, to link the demand of condo owners with suppliers who could do the work as part of the ACE Retrofitting project.
“It’s important to see the biggest obstacles and understand the role that the city could play. We decided to look into both consulting on energy matters and study the process to see what kind of process do condos go through (for a renovation),” he continued. “It was important to show suppliers the potential of the market.”
One of those obstacle was that suppliers saw condo retrofits as a complicated segment with not a lot of work while owners were not clear on what could be done or how to go about planning a retrofit.
“Our role as a city was waking up the market to the potential and giving condo owners the feeling that the city cares. Suppliers are now more capable of meeting condos and there is trust that there will be business coming from discussions.”
“In Frankfurt the first step was to know your target group and how to reach them. We knew more or less how many condos there were and what size they were but that was it. We had no idea how to reach them. The (building) trustees play a major role in communications (and were a key target audience).
So we started to create a directory and collect information. (But) it was hard to get the target groups to engage and establish open lines of communication.
The trustees were careful, asking ‘what was Frankfurt planning? Will regulations be imposed?’ but after a first or second meeting we had a really good connection. They were happy that we were becoming active. Owners couldn’t believe that there was a free energy consulting service and accompanying guidance,” continued Geissler.
“Work on contacting and understanding your target groups of owners, trustees and suppliers. Think a lot about public awareness. We had to convince people that we had good offers for energy consultants for condos but we had a lot of trouble getting interest.”
It’s important to ensure your communications are well grounded legally too.
“There were a lot of difficult questions and there are many laws involved like condo ownership laws, energy savings laws and there is quite a bit of movement.
That is why it is important to be aware of the legal context and have a legal expert to consult.”
“Advertising within the municipality is the best option with a focus on the region. Busses or a local paper. The audience we are targeting are usually older and not terribly motivated. And word of mouth is really amongst the most effective tools.”
Patience is important
It is important to understand the timescale. Trustees and owner groups usually meet once per year so a decision on retrofitting takes at least two years. It is time consuming and takes effort.
It is really important to commit to this in the long term. It’s not a topic where you can push it for a year and then let it go. It’s is better to commit fewer resources for a longer time than more resources for a shorter time.
The Directory Itself
“Creating the directory was really about paving the way. We involved energy consultants and trustee associations to define the criteria to be included in the directory. One challenge is that there is no proper education or certification for the roles involved so there was a big variety of expertise.”
Another challenge is that the city cannot subjectively recommend one supplier over another so it was important to develop an objective set of criteria for inclusion in the directory.
First – The suppliers had to be listed on the federal database – this is easy information to access and the federal database only accept certain quality levels
Second – The suppliers had to have proven expertise in the retrofitting of condos
Third –The suppliers had to have proven expertise in the implementation of projects
“We created the list in a very open and transparent way. We have given the list to other agencies and cities to be shared and for others to use it.”
In the same spirit of sharing Geissler concludes that, “Any city looking into this can get in touch – we are happy to provide any help we can and provide more information.”
September 7, 2020