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Steps in designing a communication strategy for buildings

The European Commission paper Financial support for energy efficiency in buildings writes: In many instances, energy efficiency is not a major concern for consumers or firms because energy costs are relatively low compared to many other cost factors (such as labour costs). For example, in the office space market in London, energy costs are equivalent to 1-2% of rental costs. Similarly, in a high-quality office building in Germany, heating and electricity made up less than 5% of the total operating cost of the building, including rent and maintenance (about € 1.1 of out of every € 23.3 spent). On top of this, price is not a strong driver for most building-related energy decisions (i.e. low electricity). Consequently, there is little incentive to invest in energy efficiency improvements. Furthermore, energy market prices do not reflect all environmental and social costs, for example those related to pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, resources depletion or geopolitical dependency. As a result, end user (and producer) choices are made.

Nevertheless local governments have understood that if not already today at least in medium- and long-term energy efficiency in public and private buildings is crucial for the environment, social stability as well as local economy. Therefore LGs need to phrase messages thoughtfully and communicate precisely concerning the biggest emission source of there territorial responsibility. Strategically it is advised to proceed as follows:

  1. Determine objectives why to communicate efficient energy building performances;
  2. Identify target audience in dependence of your baseline emission inventory of the building sector;
  3. Develop key messages;
  4. Determine strategies and appropriate instruments as communication channels;
  5. Design communication materials to draw attention, provide information and to stimulate action;
  6. Evaluate the effectiveness of your communication within the next SECAP.


Three German examples that can inspire Europe


Flash mobs for green investments in Frankfurt

The City of Frankfurt during its campaign Frankfurt saves electricity in SME's became official cooperation partner of Gastromobs. Gastromobs is a special form of Carrotmobs which are a boycott or anti-boycott: It’s a “conspiracy of consuming” at any given time for a good cause. The location in which everyone gathers to shop signs up to invest (if not all) a particular share of its revenue during the event to energy efficiency. The Carrotmob activists regularly target specific types of businesses like supermarkets or restaurants and select from several competitors the candidate who is willing to invest the largest percentage of its daily turnover. Social media is used to spread the word and message. Since Carrotmobs have spread throughout Europe, it is worthwhile that LGs explore how to cooperate with these attention-grabbing flash mobs and use them as an additional activity within their awareness raising and climate campaign.

Information on insulation through ice block betting
Various German communities have used ice block bets to depict the effect of energy effective refurbishment measures. The creative public relation (PR) measure can be executed as follows: On a specific date that has been communicated in advance to the media, a block of ice of e.g. 1m3 is in front of the town hall publically packed away within a box of the highest insulation standard for buildings. The local population is invited to leave a personal guess on how much over a certain period of time (e.g. 7-14 days) the ice block will melt. Besides the insulated block, another identical piece of ice could be placed next to it in a box with prevalent insulation standard for a comparison. When the time is up, both ice blocks are revealed. After weighting, the three best bets could for instance win an energy saving device, an energy consultation at home or even free insulation services. In order to reach out to as many people as possible, this PR action could be conducted during a public event like the city festival etc.. An information booth on energy efficiency and insulation of buildings should accompany the ice block bet.

Competition and special promotional offer to tackle inefficient heating
It isn’t unusual that the community based baseline emission inventory shows that the major emission source comes from heating. Moreover the majority of public and private buildings were built before the 90’s and are often still fuelled by oil. Hence it is necessary to draw residents attention to the massive saving potentials and facilitate the exchange to low-carbon or renewable heating systems.

In cooperation with the regional craftsmanship, Rügen, Germany’s major island in the Baltic Sea, launched a competition targeting its population for finding the oldest, still operating heating system in a private household. The heater should be older than 15 years. The winner of the competition gets e.g. for the acquisition of a renewable heating system based on wood, the heating material for an entire year for free.

LGs can also organise together with local business free thermographic analyses of private buildings combined with special offers for insulation. Through the thermographic reports an overview about the weak points of the building envelope is communicated to the tenants and owners. In the case of identification of weak spots an energy consultant could be drawn on to create a refurbishment plan. Half or two-thirds of the consulting costs should be brought in through sponsorship, for example, by a "premium partner" of a locally established stakeholder Alliance for Climate Protection and Renewable Energy of the LG’s energy action plan.





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