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Anna-Lisa Lindén

Anna-Lisa Linden

Professor emerita

Anna-Lisa Lindén

SWEDEN: Integrated strategies to overcome market barriers.


  • Anna-Lisa Lindén
  • Paula Femenías


  • Nico Nieboer
  • Sascha Tsenkova
  • Vincent Gruis
  • Anke van Hal

Summary, in English

A national debate about how to transform and to ‘green’ the problematic housing stocks from the boom era has been going on since the late 1990s. Different kinds of policy instruments with energy efficiency objectives that address either energy systems, energy sources or construction and renovation of the building envelope have been in use. Some policy instruments have combined green objectives with social rehabilitation of housing areas or financial objectives in times of economic crisis. Many of the policy instruments address private homeowners, private companies, or households that own their flats as members of cooperative organisations. Swedish policy has been very efficient in converting the dependence on fossil fuels for heating to other sources, which has resulted in decreased levels of carbon emissions from housing. However, regulations for energy efficiency in existing multi-family stocks, regarding for example the building envelope, have been neglected until recently. Demonstration projects that have been carried out supported by KLIMP or by the Swedish Energy Agency have shown great potential for reduced energy use, but they have not had a large influence on the sector as a whole (Stenberg et al., 2009).

We have discussed energy efficiency in housing with a special focus on multi-unit blocks from the Million Homes Programme (1965-74), which represents almost 20% of the housing stock in Sweden. 22% of the total housing stock and 50% of the stock from the Million Homes Programme is owned and managed by public housing companies. The potential for energy efficiency in these buildings represents a large part of the potential for savings in the building stock as a whole. The critical issue is related to major renovation of multi-unit housing where large energy savings can be made in individual projects (Hellström and Sandkvist, 2010). The majority of housing from the indicated period is in urgent need of renovation in order to deal with technical deterioration, energy inefficiency, and with social problems. As major renovations are only undertaken every 30 to 40 years, or even longer for some components, such as every 60 years for facades (VVS Industry, 2009), the projects that will be carried out in the coming years should aim for at least a 50% reduction of energy use in order to reach national climate goals for 2050.

With the lack of public policy to support energy efficiency in the existing housing stock, the responsibility will be transferred to property owners and managers. Our case studies indicate that energy-efficient renovation projects are possible through commitment, and strong and clear leadership. While technology does not seem to be a major hindrance, and knowledge barriers have been successfully overcome in several projects through industry-research collaborations (Dalenbäck, 2010), there is a major lack of economic incentives for action. Current practice shows that there is good return on minor investments and adjustments to retrofit existing housing for improved energy efficiency, and this is implemented on a large scale. The problem is when a major renovation is needed to address other building issues, because of the higher cost. In our cases, Gårdsten has largely benefited from financial support from external sources while Brogården shows that high ambitions can be achieved through a long-term perspective on investments. Both cases have been strongly enabled by co-operation and support from the local authorities and the owners – the city of Gothenburg and Alingsås municipality.

According to SABO, the umbrella organisation for public housing, almost 50% of the Swedish public housing owners are operating in strained financial conditions, which is a hindrance for major renovation projects (SABO, 2009). Investments in energy efficiency cannot directly be transferred to the rent, and the future energy price is difficult to estimate. One solution is to combine energy-efficient renovation with standard-raising interventions that can be transferred to the rent in what is referred to as ‘total solutions’. However, this is not always effective, especially in housing areas with unattractive buildings and low purchasing power among tenants. Alternative ways to set rents that would acknowledge energy efficiency as a standard-raising investment could be supportive.

The on-going debate indicates that one major problem could be the short-term perspective in the investment calculations used by a majority of public housing companies. It could also be that the financial risk of investment in housing developments in areas with low purchasing power is overstated. Alingsåshem seems to be an example of a public housing company with a long-term perspective. Their approach should be further studied and might be an example for wider dissemination. However, the new law on public housing that came into force on 1st January 2011 dictates a more commercial public housing, which may enforce even more the prevailing short-term economic perspective among public housing owners.

In order to reach goals for energy efficiency in the existing housing stock, it can be argued that there is a need for better economic incentives, such as grants or loan guaranties, but also stronger and clearer regulations and increased competence in energy efficiency on the whole in the building sector. In light of the study made of Gårdsten, governmental or municipal financial support for major energy-efficiency investments could also be defended with regard to positive effects from a wider societal point of view.

Finally, our case studies, like other earlier studies (Stenberg et al., 2009), indicate that energy efficiency is seldom the main motivation for engaging in major renovation. There seem to be several correlating factors that will influence the behaviour among housing companies regarding major renovations, in our cases out-of-date apartments, lack of comfort and bad indoor climate, technical deterioration, and stigmatized and unattractive housing areas. In order to set up strategies and public policy, it will be of importance that continued research shed new light on not only external incentives that push for action but also the internal processes and conditions (such as owner directives, investment calculation procedures, competence etc.) that lead up to the decision to invest in energy-efficient renovation.


  • Sociologi








Energy Efficiency in Housing Management. Policies and practice in eleven countries.


Del av eller Kapitel i bok


Earthscan Publications Ltd.


  • Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)


  • sociology
  • public housing
  • sociologi
  • Energy efficiency
  • management




  • Samhälle, utveckling och miljö


  • ISBN: 978-1-84971-454-9 (hbk), 978-0-203-12190-0 (ebk)