Revolutionising Energy Efficiency: The SUREFIT Project’s Impact on European Buildings

By the SUREFIT Team

In an increasingly sustainability-conscious world, Europe is leading the charge towards a greener future with innovative projects like SUREFIT. This EU-funded project is focused on making our buildings more efficient and sustainable and could have a profound impact on how we live and work in the future. What exactly is SUREFIT, and why should we be paying attention to it even if we’re not experts in the field? Read on for the answers and learn why SUREFIT isn’t merely a project confined to the realms of academia or industry.

What is SUREFIT?

SUREFIT is an acronym for ‘Sustainable solutions for affordable retrofit of domestic buildings.’ In a nutshell, it’s a European research and development project aimed at improving the energy efficiency of existing buildings across Europe. Why is this important? Because buildings are responsible for a significant portion of energy consumption in Europe, and enhancing their energy efficiency is crucial for reducing the carbon footprint and moving towards a more sustainable society.

The project is a consortium of institutions and companies from Finland, France, the United Kingdom, Portugal, Spain, Germany, Turkey, and Greece, working in harmony to achieve their goals, which are:

1. A 60% reduction in primary energy use and carbon emissions.

2. A 50% reduction in costs.

3. A 40% reduction in renovation time.

How Does SUREFIT Work?

SUREFIT specialises in the energy refurbishment of existing buildings, prioritising the improvement of already constructed structures over erecting new ones. This approach is particularly practical given Europe’s abundance of aged buildings failing to meet contemporary energy efficiency criteria. The initiative aims to pioneer inventive methods for renovating these structures and substantially enhancing their energy efficiency.

One of the most exciting aspects of SUREFIT is its focus on customised solutions. Instead of applying a one-size-fits-all approach, the project utilises advanced technologies to tailor renovations to the specific needs of each building and geographical context. This means that each renovation project adapts to the unique conditions and requirements of a particular building, thus ensuring maximum energy efficiency.

Like the RINNO project, SUREFIT is implementing renovation processes at five pilot cases located in different parts of Europe: Finland, Portugal, Great Britain, Spain, and Greece. Renovation conditions were simulated for each location and informed the technologies to be implemented at each pilot site. Subsequently, the installation was carried out, followed by an extensive controlling and monitoring process comparing the estimated savings with the real conditions of use.

Benefits for Everyone

In the current context, it’s easy to understand the benefits that SUREFIT offers and how they can positively impact our living environments. First, greater energy efficiency in buildings can lead to reduced energy bills, which is beneficial for both owners and tenants. Moreover, lower energy demand in buildings means less strain on the electrical grid, which could contribute to greater stability in the electrical supply. However, the most significant and substantial benefit is the contribution to the fight against climate change. As we know, the reduction in energy consumption for heating, cooling, and lighting in buildings directly impacts greenhouse gas emissions, which helps Europe meet its carbon reduction targets.

Key Technologies of the SUREFIT Project: A Deeper Look

The SUREFIT project is supported by a range of innovative technologies that enable sustainable and efficient building renovation. While we don’t need to be experts to understand how these technologies can transform our built environment, it’s helpful to know some of the tools that make this transformation possible.

1. Energy Management Systems: SUREFIT incorporates advanced energy management systems that control and monitor energy usage in renovated buildings. These systems enable the intelligent adjustment of heating, cooling, and lighting, ensuring that only the necessary energy is used at any given moment. This optimisation reduces energy waste and lowers operational costs.

2. Innovative Building Materials: The selection of appropriate building materials is crucial for improving a building’s energy efficiency. SUREFIT focuses on the development and implementation of advanced materials, such as high-quality thermal insulation, vacuum windows, and facade infiltration reduction systems. These materials act as a barrier against heat loss, maintaining a more stable indoor temperature and reducing the need for constant heating or cooling.

3. Renewable Energy Systems: To reduce dependence on conventional energy sources and promote sustainability, SUREFIT advocates for the integration of renewable energy systems. This includes the installation of hybrid PV/T panels on roofs and the adoption of geothermal energy systems that harness the natural heat from the ground. These clean energy sources help decrease the carbon footprint of renovated buildings.

4. Real-Time Monitoring: Buildings renovated under the SUREFIT project are equipped with real-time monitoring systems that allow continuous tracking of energy consumption. The data collected helps assess the effectiveness of renovations and make necessary adjustments, ensuring optimal performance over time.

Passive Systems for Energy Efficiency

The passive systems in the SUREFIT project play a crucial role in improving the energy efficiency of buildings without requiring active energy consumption. They are:

1. Phase Change Materials (PCM): PCMs are materials that store and release heat during phase changes, such as melting and solidification, and serve as a thermal battery. In the context of SUREFIT, they are used in roofs to provide comfort by regulating indoor temperature. During the day, PCMs absorb and store excess rising heat, thereby keeping the room temperature stable. At night, as temperatures drop, they release the stored heat, maintaining a constant comfortable indoor temperature. This process reduces the need for active heating and cooling.

2. Aerogel Insulation (UNOTT, CJR): Aerogels are extremely lightweight and highly insulating materials. Silica-based aerogel prefabricated panels are porous silica-based insulation that, with low thickness, can significantly reduce heat loss through the building envelope when applied to exterior walls and roofs. This results in a reduction in heating use, improving the building’s energy efficiency, and reducing energy costs. Bioaerogel is a variant that incorporates biodegradable materials, making it more environmentally friendly. These materials enhance energy efficiency by maintaining a constant indoor temperature.

3. Breathable and Waterproof Membranes (WINCO): These membranes are used to maintain the integrity of structures while allowing moisture to escape, preventing moisture buildup within the walls. This is essential for preventing issues like mould and ensuring that buildings remain habitable and efficient over time. They also reduce energy losses due to infiltration or excessive ventilation. Additionally, given their composition, they reflect solar radiation, which is particularly valuable in the summer as it prevents interior overheating.

4. Adjustable Louver Shutters (KOESTER): SUREFIT is conducting research on daylight blinds consisting of single slats with special mirror optics on their upper surface. The idea is to create a bifocal optic whereby the high angles of incidence hitting the blinds in summer will be reflected into the sky, while lower angles of incidence are partially harvested for improved daylighting and solar gain in winter. An optimised application of such daylight systems is researched for different types of windows, like compound windows or standard windows with double or triple insulation glass. The Finnish pilot site integrates the louvers into the cavity between an inner and an outer window to cater to different purposes: In the upper window area, the louver optics redirect the sun mainly horizontally into the room depth for better daylight illumination and electric lighting savings. Only in the lower part of the window, the single louvers deflect the overheating summer sun back outside and reflect the lower angles of incidence towards inside the room.

This research also relates to the quality of the mirror surfaces. The better the reflectivity of the mirrors, the less energy is absorbed. Therefore, highly reflective mirrors (96% reflectivity) have been chosen for the Finnish project. The louver surfaces are also vacuum coated to enhance reflectivity. The blinds are installed between two windows. With better reflectivity, overheating of the cavity between the windows is avoided, and the passive cooling effect in summer is improved. In the balcony area, for practical purposes, SUREFIT uses aluminium reflectors with anodized surfaces and 86% reflectivity. These reflectors are also insensitive to dust.

Active Systems for Energy Generation and Climate Control

Active systems are components that actively generate energy or regulate temperatures. In the SUREFIT project, these systems are efficiently integrated into the renovated buildings:

1. Hybrid PV/T Panels and Photovoltaics (SOLIMPEKS): Hybrid PV/T panels generate electricity and useful thermal energy from a single panel. Due to the active cooling of PV layers, extra electricity generation of up to 25% annually is achieved. Also, the lifetime of PV cells is extended due to reduced cell operating temperatures. Moreover, less area is occupied compared to separate solar PV and thermal systems. These technologies enable buildings to produce a portion or all the electricity they consume, reducing dependence on conventional energy sources and decreasing carbon emissions. In the case of SUREFIT, the innovation lies in the integration of the two panels with minimal loss in the efficiency of each system if installed separately.

2. Surface Geothermal-Assisted Heat Pump (UNOTT): This system harnesses heat stored in the shallow ground for heating and cooling. Surface geothermal is more efficient and sustainable than conventional systems, as the ground serves as a constant source of thermal energy.

3. Solar-Assisted Heat Pump (UNOTT): This technology combines solar energy with a heat pump to provide efficient heating and cooling. Solar energy powers the heat pump, further reducing conventional electricity consumption.

4. Photovoltaic Glass (UNOTT): Photovoltaic glass serves as both windows and solar panels. It is installed in windows to capture solar energy while allowing natural light to enter. This means that buildings can generate electricity while still benefiting from natural lighting.

5. Heat Recovery Units in Window Units (UNOTT): These systems enable controlled ventilation of buildings without losing heat in winter or cool air in summer. They recover heat from the outgoing air and transfer it to the incoming air, improving indoor air quality without significantly increasing the heating or cooling demand.

SUREFIT combines a range of passive and active technologies to achieve sustainable and efficient building renovations. These solutions not only reduce energy consumption but also contribute to a more comfortable, healthier, and environmentally friendly built environment for local communities and the world. And this is the key – the combination of technologies, prefabrication, performance control, and a complete life cycle assessment to ensure the sustainability of the interventions, to achieve the project’s proposed objectives. And while these technologies may sound complex, their impact on everyday life is clear: more efficient buildings, lower energy bills, and a healthier planet for future generations.

If you would like to learn more about the SUREFIT project, please contact Themis Sarantaenas at

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