Audio Cities & Buildings - 06/January/2020

Swedish public housing project goes off-grid

Energy expert Brian Vad Mathiesen from Aalborg University in Denmark describes Vårgårda’s system as a “limousine solution”

Typical of a national public housing plan in Sweden from the mid-1970s is Backgårdsgatan, a social housing project in Vårgårda, a small town in the south-west of the country. But as often the case with public housing everywhere, the six blocks fell into disrepair and eventually became synonymous with social problems. Recent renovations to make the buildings leading examples of energy efficient social housing have vastly improved living conditions for residents and turned the apartments into a positive economic asset for the company that owns them. But the decision to take the buildings partly off-grid is questionable.

Faced with a growing multitude of problems with the energy leaky apartments, Jan Thorsson, CEO of Vårgårda Bostäder, the municipal housing company that owns and runs Backgårdsgatan and the city council decided it was time to act. The existing six buildings were renovated and a third floor added to each apartment block, creating a total of 172 homes at a cost of around SEK 390 million (€37 million). The renovation included an off-grid energy system based on solar power, battery storage and hydrogen fuel cells for hot water and heating.


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