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Collective Self-Organised (CSO) housing is an emerging and rapidly increasing trend in Europe. The CSO housing is the process through which a group of homeowners purchase a piece of land or existing properties; procure professional companies for design, construction and maintenance; and directly manage the project from planning until delivery and use. This process reflects a bottom-up approach in the construction market based on the end-users’ awareness and commitment to a sustainable built environment. The CSO housing process contains great potential for realising and maintaining energy-efficient buildings and districts. The demand for CSO processes is increasing along with the improving strength of self-managing capacity in a knowledge-based European society. In CSO process, the deep and long-term impact of energy-efficient buildings is best guaranteed by the end-users’ own awareness and commitment to a sustainable built environment. Moreover, CSO process demonstrates a great potential for realising and managing energy-efficient buildings at a district scale. Many local governments are working to stimulate CSO housing in the next decade, especially by promoting energy-efficient building projects that are affordable for most people.

Among the current examples, the UK has recently launched a policy and action plan to double the share of self-organised development from 12% to 25% in a decade. In the Netherlands, the share will be increased from 18% to approximately 30%. In most other EU15 countries and Norway, self-organised housing will exceed 50% of the new dwellings delivered to the market. In many EU12 countries, self-organised refurbishment has also been aligned with privatisation policy. Homeowner groups are encouraged to self-organise the maintenance and retrofitting of dwellings and districts to maintain and improve the quality of privatised housing stock.

The CSO processes reflect a bottom-up approach in the construction market. Many local governments consider self-organised housing as the best way to improve and maintain the quality of new or refurbished districts and respectively the city economy by attracting capable and committed inhabitants, who are looking for more freedom in the creation of their sustainable living environment. CSO housing opens a new market segment for SME business creation at a large scale. The clients and end-users are seeking direct and flexible collaborations with SMEs. While the project ideas, plans and buildings are taking shape incrementally, SMEs become involved in a collaborative relationship with the end-users and with the other businesses.




There are a large number of SME-driven technologies and services for energy-efficient buildings available, but many of them have not been able to create a wide impact on the market. These solutions can be recognised in 2 groups:

·         New technologies or services –well-tested, production-eligible or already demonstrated– which cannot be marketed yet due to the lack of a business case for market exploitation. Most prototypes in this category are based on spin-offs from R&D projects by research organisations.

·         Existing technologies or services from SMEs that have already been marketed, but require a further improvement or upgrading together with an optimised business case to achieve a larger level of success.


Several examples of the available solutions are as follows.

·         Façade retrofit module “ReFlex”

A proven prototype named ReFlex Module can give extra volume to the façade of post-war multi-family row houses, which are typically too small for modern living standards. The ReFlex Module is a new flexible retrofitting method that does not require extra foundation, which extends the life of dwellings that may otherwise be destined for demolition.

·         Rooftop retrofit module “SuRE-Fit” (

The technological concept of energy-efficient rooftop retrofitting was established in the recently completed EU project titled SuRE-FIT (Sustainable Roof Extension Retrofit), aimed at consolidating roof top extension retrofits for multi-family housing and the development of process models and tailor-made guidelines for broader implementation of this innovative solution. A preceding feasibility study shows that 13.7 million dwellings belong to the potential market of the SuRE-Fit concept; this is approximately 6% of the EU housing stock. The potential energy saving is estimated at 120,000 GWh per year.

·         Integrated systems and services for “IFD buildings”

An innovative modular building system, including the integrated processes and services, was developed within the EU collaborative research project “IFD-Buildings”. The Industrial-Flexible-and-Demountable (IFD) modular system, mainly based on the pre-assembling of standard components, is able to significantly increase the design and functional flexibility, and to allow homeowners to customise the technical components and solutions.



The new and optimised SME-driven business cases for the available technologies and services for energy-efficient buildings contain the following objectives:

·         to achieve market growth of more than 10% per year within the next decade;

·         to implement a flexible approach to analyse, combine or integrate the most suitable      solutions from a broad possibility of options to meet the client/end-user’s performance requirements according to the local environment.

In order to achieve these objectives, a comprehensive business model that contains the business cases for various solutions needs to be established. 

Based on this new business model, an SME network of joint product-service providers of energy-efficient building solutions will be established. The SME network is an interactive platform which functions as a ‘one-stop shop’ for collective clients in the CSO housing market. The network consists of ‘SME preferred suppliers’, including designers, engineers, manufacturers, maintenance and operation firms, process advisors, and ESCOs. The SME members from the network can flexibly team up with the most qualified partners according to the client’s needs and project configuration. As a team, they become competitive and able to jointly provide integrated technologies and services for district-scale energy-efficient building projects.



This background describes the EU collaborative research project PROFICIENT to propose and practically validate a new network business model, which enables the end-users, SMEs, and ESCOs together to develop or refurbish an energy-efficient district through the CSO housing process. The research plan includes 4 demonstration cases of an eco-cohousing project in the UK, CSO housing projects in the Netherlands, and sustainable refurbishment projects in Hungary and Czech Republic. Within these demonstration cases, the action research method will be employed while the interplay between different elements of the business model and the policy environment will be assessed. The practical validation of the process and business models and the supporting tools will be done by engaging the project stakeholders together with the SMEs to form a Community of Practice (CoP) at and around the demonstration cases. 


This text is a summary of the paper DEVELOPMENT AND REFURBISHMENT OF ENERGY-EFFICIENT RESIDENTIAL DISTRICTS BASED ON COLLECTIVE SELF-ORGANISED HOUSING PROCESSES, presented by Rizal Sebastian, Senior Research Scientist at TNO, The Netherlands and a project leader of Proficient, at the Creative Construction Conference 2012, June 30 - July 3, 2012, Budapest, Hungary.



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