Gabrovo SoS

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Pilot projects for low-energy buildings in Gabrovo, Bulgaria: 'Passive' buildings become the standard for energy efficiency

Under the Bulgarian Energy Efficiency Act, municipalities are obliged to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, while at the same time increasing the share of energy from renewable sources. The National Energy Efficiency Action Plan specifies quotas for each municipality. To meet that requirement existing facilities have to be upgraded and for new buidlings one has to turn to the design and construction of NZEBs (Near Zero Emission Buildings). The realization of the passive building for kindergarten "Sun" was an essential element of the overall policy of Gabrovo to promote this type of building. The new home for the kindergarten was unveiled at the end of March 2013. The project was developed by the architectural studio "SolAir International" Ltd. with the support of the "EcoEnergy" Municipal Energy Efficiency Network. The high demand for energy efficiency called for maximal solar heat gains and minimal thermal losses in the choice of the shape and orientation of the two-story building and in the interior arrangement of the rooms.

The objective of the project was to reach Energy Class “A” in terms of the Bulgarian standard of net energy demand. At the same time the intent was to comply with the Passive House standard (PH standard) of providing all-season comfort at minimal operatinal costs. According to PHPP calculation, the design will have an energy heating demand of 9kWh/m2a. This small amount of additional energy for heating will be provided by an air to water thermal pump. Comfort will be assured by floor heating and highly efficient ventilation with thermal recuperation. A solar system with a selective collector will be used for hot water. Since it is the first project of its kind in the region, there is a possibility for connection to the district heating network as an additional emergency measure in the case of very low winter temperatures.

The realisation of this construction project is a part of the “DIRECTIONS – Provision of social and educational consulting and integration in the communities” programme under Grant Agreement with the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy through a loan from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The total cost of the project is BGN 1 515 832, out of which BGN 1 093 00 are allocated for construction works; BGN 367 317 for services and BGN 55 515 for furniture and technological equipment. The co-financing by Gabrovo municipality is BGN 181 618 (VAT included). The period for executing the work was 24 months. As the public procurement procedure was based on “lowest price” criteria, it took a very brave and ambitious act by the municipality and the mayor herself to keep to the PH standard. The municipality agreed to cover the cost difference between construction to PH standard and construction to minimal requirements by its own budgetary rules.

Being the very first project of its kind in an arera even larger than the region of Gabrovo, the project is drawing the attention of many professionals. The construction was performed by a company which kept in close contact with the designers in order to avoid major mistakes during execution. The process is followed by municipal experts related to construction, engineering, architecture and city planning. Trainers from the Technical University at Gabrovo and the local Vocational College of Architecture and Construction took part in the 'train the trainer' course offered in Sofia in June 2013. Moreover, some Passive House Tradespeople were certified by Passive House Institute in the framework of PassREg project. Future on-site trainings and study visits, especially for students from the Vocational Colleges, are planned along with other capacity building events.

Measures to achieve the passive house standard will be undertaken in three other educational buildings. With the assistance of experts from Center for Energy Efficiency "EnEffect" and "EcoEnergy" Municipal Energy Efficiency Network, there will be an energy audit of the buildings of the schools "St. Cyril and Methodius", “Tsanko Dyustabanov” and of the former elementary school “Radion Umnikov" which will become a community center for children. The sites are included in the project "Technical Assistance for Preparation of Gabrovo municipality for the next programming period 2014 – 2020”, which will develop investment projects for further funding by the “Regional Development” Operational Programme. The three schools are the last ones in which energy efficiency measures are still to be implemented according to modern requirements. Over the years, buildings underwent partial repairs of facades, roofs and bathrooms and replacements of windows. The energy audit is expected to provide a basis for energy saving measures according to current standards of energy consumption, an estimate of the costs of compliance to the essential requirements for building works, and a detailed economic analysis of the possible investment.

Gabrovo municipality is one of the leading municipalities in Bulgaria in the implementation of energy efficiency policies. For the past five years, looking at educational infrastructure only, energy efficiency measures were applieed to seven schools, ten kindergartens and a nursery. Currently, energy saving measures for renovation and modernization of kindergarten "Iris" - base 2 and nursery "First of June" are being implemented. Forthcoming activities for energy efficiency are planned for the acrobatics, athletics and boxing sports complex "Hristo Botev". As a longtime chairman of “EcoEnergy” Municipal Energy Efficiency Network, Gabrovo repeatedly initiates exemplary projects in buildings, street lighting and more. Since last year the municipality of Gabrovo, together with Sofia and Varna, constitute an associated region in the PassREg project, carried out by the Center for Energy Efficiency "EnEffect". This project is conducted in cooperation with the Municipality under the coordination of Passive House Institute – Darmstadt, Germany. By Decision № 129 of 25 July 2013 the municipal council in the city supported the proposal of the mayor for inclusion in the large-scale initiative “Covenant of Mayors”. Mayor Tanya Hristova is authorized to carry out the procedures for accession.

In this convenant, Gabrovo envisages development of an action plan for sustainable energy (SEAP), as well as a monitoring and evaluation report every two years after its submission. "Days of intelligent energy" will be organized to inform the public of the possibilities and advantages of a more efficient energy use. In addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 20% compared to 1990 levels, the Covenant of Mayors supports the commitment of the European Commission to reduce energy consumption by 20% and to ensure that 20% of the energy consumption is from renewable energy sources. The PassREg project supports these goals as well.[[category:Regional action plan]