A housing company needs sharp brains
A Soviet-Union era colossus underwent rejuvenation – the result is nearly 65 per cent savings in energy costs
There can be many opinions about outward appearance, but inner beauty is indisputable.
Sopruse 202 received a new future, when a complete energy efficiency renovation was done in the building. The energy bill of the apartment building located in Tallinn’s Mustamäki has dropped near 65 per cent. Living conditions have improved markedly. Ventilation works, and heat is evenly distributed.
”This building is like a pearl in an ironing board store,” says Aivar Paabo proudly.
The company Profener owned by Paabo is a service provider, who is responsible for the monitoring and control of Sopruse’s building technology.
”The different sectors of building technology are like top artists, who need a competent conductor to lead them,” says Paabo. ”Automation is that conductor.”
Sopruse 202 rose in the Mustamäki suburb in 1971, when the Soviet Union was at the height of its powers. Exceptionally, the building material was brick.
Modern buildings were constructed for the workers quickly and efficiently. In the Sopruse area, many similar long cubes were made. The man responsible for their planning was the famous architect Raine Karp – the same man who was also drawing the headquarters of the central committee of Estonia’s Communist Party.
There are some 20,000 buildings similar to Sopruse 202 in Estonia. Approximately half of them will be or already have been condemned. The rest are kept and as many as possible are completely renovated. Similar decisions will have to be made also in crumbling suburbs in the other Baltic countries and Finland and Sweden.
With insulation and heat pumps
Sopruse 202’s renovations were begun with insulation. 150 mm EPS insulation plates were put on the walls and 300 mm of wool was put on the ceiling. Ventilation machines were renewed and three powerful exhaust air heat pumps were attached to the ventilation. Aivar Paabo says that Sopruse still also uses district heating – but only during the coldest days.
”The investment was expensive of course, nearly 2,1 million euros, and the housing company had to take out a big loan. In practice, however, it’s managed easily. The money that we now save on energy bills is used toward loan installments. The maintenance fee is the same as before.”
Extensive state aid speeded up the Sopruse project. Estonia uses the millions it has earned through emissions trading on energy saving projects.
Not even a large amount of money, however, will guarantee that the investment is successful. According to Paabo, Sopruse 202’s neighboring building Sopruse 244 underwent a similar renovation, but the savings fell clearly short of the goal and the achievements of 202.
The matter finally became clear, and the automation system was located as the cause. The programming of its operating logic had failed, and operations were not actively monitored after its introduction. The problem has now been fixed by Profener.
”Nobody noticed when the heat pumps acted up. The building did stay warm, as it received the energy it needed from the district heating network. This, however, became expensive for the owners.”
Don’t save on automation
Aivar Paabo recommends for housing companies to always choose the best possible automation system, so that the problems described above can be avoided. Important criteria are intelligence, reliability and compatibility with both modern and future devices.
Sopruse 202’s systems are monitored by seven actuators, which send their information wirelessly to a cloud service. Ouflex actuators and the cloud service Ounet come from the Finnish Ouman. The price of the top-quality automation delivery remained at 4,000 euros. It is a slight expense compared to the price of the whole effort.
”Previously, maintenance men came to the premises to check that everything was alright. These were fairly simplistic actions in the light of modern times. A cloud service saves both time and money. The operator can monitor up to a hundred sites at the same time, and do it without getting up from his chair, which could be located even in the Bahamas.”
Profener began cooperation with Ouman in early 2014. In a short time period, Aivar Paabo has sold the Ouflex and Ounet automation system to 30 housing companies. The short-term goal is 100 customers, and there is no limit to the growth. Restrictions and roadblocks, on the other hand, are plentiful.
”Indeed, a housing company is like a collective farm,” Paabo says. ”And the housing company is managed by people my age who believe that under no circumstances should they take out a bank loan. Young people understand the logic of energy renovations, but boards and general meetings are controlled by old people.”
The most efficient way to influence is neighbor envy, even in Estonia. Paabo organizes seminars for opposition groups in housing companies, in which people familiarize themselves with achievements by pioneers from nearby areas.
”Indeed, in many places this is like pushing with a rope. But the big masses are understanding the matter, and when the mass moves, nothing stops it.”