Surpassing Energy Targets through Efficient Public Buildings

About SERPENTE Project

10% of possible energy savings to be made by 2020 could result from application of existing legislation in the transport, heat production and building sectors. Energy consumption in buildings represents around 40% of total final energy use in Europe.

The European Union is in a situation whereby reduction of harmful emissions and efficient use of resources are key to ensuring long term sustainable development. In addition to current questions about energy security and nuclear energy, the EU must consider how to invest in initiatives that mitigate against climate change. SERPENTE focuses on this question, as defined by the overall INTERREG IVC objective on Environment and Risk Prevention and to the sub priority on energy and sustainable transport.

Problems in energy saving vary between historical buildings, outdated, non-ecologically friendly buildings built from the 2nd world war till the 70’s, modern buildings expected to be built with sustainable technologies built from the 1990’s onwards. According to the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, energy performance of existing buildings must be improved through major renovations according to minimum national requirements and installation of high-efficiency alternatives.

In this context, publicly owned and managed buildings are a key element.

They are large energy consumers, due in part to size, number of users and lack of sufficient investment in eco-fitting and renovation. Public authorities also have a key role in leading by example. Promoting and rewarding efficient energy consumption, can have a knock on effect in changing behaviour among the private sector and citizens. Public authorities face the challenge of identifying funding for large scale investments and justifying up-front costs by showing the value of future savings in a perspective of sustainable economic growth. Furthermore, when buildings are managed by third parties (e.g. schools, sport facilities) users lack economic motivation and awareness to commit to energy saving practices. Finally, public authorities face questions of policy coordination, both between different departments and between different levels of local authorities.

SERPENTE project brings together 10 partners from 10 countries.

The partnership groups partners characterised by different climate, history and building stocks. However, the theme of energy efficiency in buildings is relevant for all. Some are local authorities, which directly manage public buildings and define public policies. Some are energy agencies, which support local authorities and are in charge of defining local energy plans.

Other entities such as a research centre specialised in renewable energy and an association of cities provide expert input to defining plans and priorities in collaboration with various local authorities.

Partners are supported by end users, policy makers and relevant stakeholders, involved in project activities to guarantee that relevant territorial needs  are addressed.

The project theme, objectives and sub-categories of public buildings were identified on the basis of in-depth consultation and are of direct relevance to each partner. Partners decided to focus project activities on the needs of existing buildings to reach higher standards of energy saving and efficiency. This does not negate the importance on new constructions, but reflects a feeling that existing buildings have been subject to less stringent controls and interventions in recent years.

Partners have agreed on activities of particular relevance to them and particularly suitable for addressing the above-described problems.

Thus, particular importance will be placed on the identification of good practices related to incentives, technology, evaluation of building performances, awareness campaigns and policies in order to integrate selected measures and test them in publicly owned/managed buildings.

Objectives of the project

SERPENTE’s overall objective is to improve energy efficiency in different typologies of publicly owned or managed buildings through improved public policies.

In this way SERPENTE contributes to the objectives of Lisbon, Gothenburg and Europe 2020 Strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.

It fits into the context of the priorities of Energy 2020 - A strategy for competitive, sustainable and secure energy, which refers to the stock of public buildings and to the necessity to exploit all available opportunities, including those offered by EU Regional policy to improve energy efficiency and autonomy of buildings.

Specific sub-objectives of the project, working towards achieving the overall aim, are:


The Interregional Cooperation Programme INTERREG IVC, financed by the European Union’s Regional Development Fund, helps Regions of Europe work together to share experience and good practice in the areas of innovation, the knowledge economy, the environment and risk prevention. EUR 302 million is available for project funding but, more than that, a wealth of knowledge and potential solutions are also on hand for regional policy-makers.