Achieving neutral housing costs sustainably is actually financially attractive

Before Article

Renovatie in huisRecently, the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL) published a news item entitled ‘Making your own home sustainable is financially unattractive’. “A bad title above an excessively theoretical study”, in the opinion of Bert van Renselaar and Bram Adema of CFP Green Buildings. According to them, the sector sees more opportunities than obstacles in actual practice.

The PBL study considers achieving neutral housing costs sustainably as a stand-alone task. That position does not correspond to reality. The report misses the mark on three important points:

  1. Sustainability must be carried out at natural or logical moments in a building’s lifecycle, in combination with renovation or major maintenance. As a result, the investments are a fraction of the costs mentioned in the PBL study.
  2. The most likely technical solutions should be the starting point, rather than the most expensive options. As a result, sustainability can be achieved with a much lower investment.
  3. Making every house energy-neutral is a utopia. Renewable energy generation is a much more efficient way of CO2 reduction and involves less loss of raw materials.

Sustainability in combination with renovation

The main reason for insulating your home is usually to prevent you from having cold feet. A lower energy bill is a good thing, but not necessarily the goal. For example, by insulating your roof only when fitting a dormer window or installing underfloor heating when replacing the kitchen, a large part of the costs for dismantling and demolition is avoided.
Real energy-neutral housing costs should take into account the costs you already incur for renovating, adapting or improving your home. Key is linking sustainability to adjustments where the payback time is less or irrelevant.

The simplest solutions for sustainability

The PBL study states that all homes must be individually heated with a heat pump. As a result, the total delivery system per house also has to be replaced. “That’s never going to happen”, says Adema. “In practice, many homes are made more sustainable in other ways, for example using a heat network or green gas. This does not even take into account the technological developments that will offer us even more alternatives within the next few years.”

Even now, there are more financially interesting options than the most sustainable scenario set out by the PBL for all dwellings. Investments of around € 10,000 per 10 years, together with the purchase of kitchens, new boilers and dormers, for example, result in lower costs, less waste of raw materials and less mess.

Zonnepaneel plaatsen op dakMaking every individual house energy-neutral is a utopia

Energy neutrality is not a stand-alone task. “The central generation of renewable energy is considerably cheaper than squeezing the last kilowatt hour out of each individual home”, Van Renselaar says. “We need to provide a system in which we have sufficient centrally generated renewable energy, so that sustainability is not left to individual homeowners. If you take this holistic approach, the costs to homeowners cited by the PBL will soon be halved.”

New research

Do not stare blindly at what is not possible, but focus on sustainability opportunities. “That is the starting point to achieve the task ahead of us”, according to Adema. “Over the next thirty years, all homes will undergo large-scale improvement at one time or other. Seize that opportunity to make sustainability profitable. This is why we advocate conducting a new study in which the natural moments in a building’s lifecycle in the next thirty years will be used to accelerate the sustainability of the Dutch stock of owner-occupied houses.”

If you have any questions regarding this article, please contact Bram Adema via