Vilogia chooses solution provider for first French Energiesprong renovations

The Energiesprong movement in France took two major steps recently. Enabled by Transition Zero (a project funded by the EU’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme), a big French national deal was signed during the Congress of the Social Union for Housing with 3.600 houses to be refurbished according to Energiesprong standards. In addition, one of the first Energiesprong prototypes, co-financed by the Interreg NWE E=0 project, is soon to be delivered. This first prototype will be in Hem, in the North of France and is implemented by Vilogia.” Vilogia has selected a solution provider for the first 10 demonstrator houses. Agnieszka Bogucka, Vilogia’s project manager, describes the selection process, which was far from routine.

Let´s begin at the beginning
“In October 2016 we released a call for tender for 10 demonstrator houses to be refurbished. Five solution providers responded but only three had the appropriate credentials and track record. The specification demanded a multi-functional team including architectural and engineering skills as well as significant experience in projects with so called ‘passive houses’.”

Focus on outcomes and dialogue
“The second step was for the three remaining bidders to prepare proposals. Learning from the Dutch experience, we focused on the outcomes we wanted to achieve rather than telling bidders how to achieve them. We wanted suppliers to think ‘outside the box’ and we invested a lot of time in meetings and ‘question and answer’ sessions to make sure they understood the Energiesprong concept. We also looked to the future and asked them to consider how they would price and deliver 10,000 houses if they were successful with the demonstrator project. This dialogue was vital to us gaining confidence in the bidders.”

Be prepared
“Bidders were quite surprised by our open minded approach and our willingness to exchange ideas. Normally it´s the other way round, they come up with a project based on certain price or they propose us a price and related solutions. On this occasion we knew exactly what we wanted and that surprised them. Our detailed preparation helped us enormously, particularly the many meetings we had with Dutch housing associations and the long hours spent talking with Ron van Erck, Energiesprong’s Head of International Market Development. Input from Greenflex was an enormous help too. They spent months comparing the Dutch solutions to the reality of the French market and political conditions. They helped us to find out what could be feasible in France. Being well prepared kept us on track and made us not only ask the right questions but in a way ‘guide’ the bidders to come back with better and higher performing solutions.”

And the winner is… but why?
“Our chosen solution provider was Rabot Dutilleul, mainly because their whole team was passionate and vocal about Energiesprong. We had the feeling that, be it people from the architecture, engineering, maintenance or production team, that they all knew what they were talking about and were very enthusiastic. We felt they were ready for the challenge and willing to put a lot of effort into working with us. We also appreciated that they were listening and trying to improve their proposal.”

The design phase
“June to September this year revolved around design. Our partner is really trying to find better and more economically sound solutions. The price is still not on par with the Netherlands but we recognise they are trying really hard to bring it down, for example by consulting diverse solution providers and analysing the impact of different components to find things they could change. Designing, fine-tuning and pricing is an ongoing process.”

A yes vote
“The district surrounding the 10 demonstrator houses is a mixture of homeowners and tenants. In such scenarios, according to French convention, the whole district has a say in how the common spaces should look. There is a special process for this where people vote on issues involving big changes. Last September the tenant association voted yes and their vote counted as one vote in a group of 10 concerned houses. Right now, in November 2017, we have received a ‘yes’ vote from the rest of the houses involved! Eight out of 10 said yes, one household abstained. As more than 50% are in, we can go for it!”

Top tips
“Clearly a Net Zero Energy procurement process takes more time than a regular one but we are learning how we can organise things so the process is smoother and quicker in future. Because this is our first commission, we have to manage everyone involved but we don’t intend to keep doing that. So how do we share the load with others in our organisation? First, it’s important to spread the Energiesprong mindset, and second you have to convince people to do things differently, to get off the beaten track. In our case this is a bottom up process because we have a very close relationship with our tenants. People shouldn’t be afraid of a different approach or the technical aspects of Net Zero. We involve everyone because the Energiesprong approach has a big impact on the housing organisation. Even IT people need to change their systems to accommodate new data and different client relationships. An Energiesprong approach concerns everyone in a housing association!”

Facts and figures
“Vilogia have just realised a new call for tender for the next 160 houses to be Energiesprong refurbished in 2018! In this way we are working towards fulfilling the agreement we signed at the the Congress of the Social Union for Housing and we will try to keep this on track.”

Major works will start on 8 January 2018, but minor works will begin in November. Vilogia has just offered their tenants new kitchens with a choice of four different models. It was a cheerful and relaxing moment for everyone. Tenants could not only choose something they like, they also received some advice from an interior architect on how to arrange their new E=0 homes.

We’ll keep you informed!