Sharing experiences of renovating public buildings to enhance energy efficiency via Interreg Europe.

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Durham County Council's story

REBUS -Renovation for Energy Efficient Buildings- is a European partnership project to improve energy efficiency of publicly owned buildings by exchanging best practice and experience. Starting in April 2016 until March 2021, it has just secured additional funding from October 2021 to September 2022 to investigate the impact of the Covid pandemic on energy efficiency in public buildings.

Funded through Interreg Europe, the project is led by the Resources Recovery Regional Agency (ARRR) in Tuscany and involves partners from Greece (Crete), Hungary (Miskolc), Poland (Krakow), Romania (Braila), Sweden (Malmo), Germany (Osterholz) and the UK (Durham). Project Partner Steering Group meetings have been held approximately every six months, with each partner country taking turns to show their knowledge and experience.

Durham's involvement influenced several low carbon projects which were included in our first Climate Emergency Response Plan. Our overseas partners wanted to learn more about the energy efficiency work that we do with local schools through the ECO2 Smart Schools Programme, developed with Outdoor and Sustainability Education Specialists (OASES), and the impact of the Big Switch Off campaign - a project to manage the environmental impact of our buildings through energy and carbon management.

The lead partner (ARRR) adopted our Big Switch Off campaign for their work in Tuscany with building managers.

We have established a very effective Local Stakeholder Group of national, regional and local organisations supporting the project and moving forward change.

Useful learnings from Durham County Council

Collaboration projects are excellent ways to share learning and develop new initiatives but they can take a lot of time. Do your research on your project partners to ensure that you have similar aims and that you'll be able to work together effectively and specifically the ability of the Lead Partner to coordinate the programme and administer it effectively. This project was funded by Interreg Europe so that contributed towards staff costs and covered the cost of travel and events.

Over the five years of the REBUS programme we adapted the work plan to suit the needs of Durham Council and the other partners. The pandemic changed plans significantly, we switched to virtual engagement using Teams and other platforms and we found it had a positive impact in many cases enabling more partner organisations to engage in events and activities in the last year of the programme.

Looking part on the programme it provided a wonderful opportunity to showcase good practice examples of staff engagement projects from Durham (and the other partners) including in our case 'The Big Switch Off' and ECO2 Smart Schools. Plus we gathered really good insights from the other parters that we have incorporated into our activities and planning. It also enabled conversations to take place between local partner organisations through the Local Stakeholder Group, this forum was a really good forum to share information and ideas from a wide range of sectors that perhaps otherwise wouldn't have taken place. It was also a really good way to engage elected Members to promote the opportunities for energy efficiency retrofit.

The programme has just secured an additional years funding to investigate the impact of the Covid pandemic on building energy use.

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REBUS partners at Morrison Bus Depot
REBUS final meeting in Durham in Sept '22
Q&A session with regional partners at Durham Event in January 2019.