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This is how we renovate 22 million homes in the North Sea Region

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A headshot of the author, Ulla-Britt Krämer
by Ulla-Britt Krämer
6 minutes
An illustration showing a grass-covered factory in a green landscape.

It's possible: Mass energy renovation at high speed and half the cost. With a blueprint for an innovative Smart Renovation Factory, INDU-ZERO has shown a way forward. 

Main content

Why the industry must change

The construction industry is a very conservative business sector which has not changed much in the last decades. By failing to develop, the industry has not been able to speed up home energy renovation despite pressing needs. In addition, costs of energy renovation are rising continuously. 

The need for energy savings has never been more urgent, with energy prices skyrocketing. At the moment many families are facing energy poverty. Sadly, this number is growing rapidly.

This is why new industrial solutions for energy renovation are essential.

What the future can bring

A row of three houses inside green jackets and the text Smart Renovation Factory

INDU-ZERO has proven to be a real game changer in the renovation sector. In this project, we were able to provide a concrete and detailed example of a future Smart Renovation Process. We did this by working out every detail of the entire production process including logistics, product development, production process, factory layout, and on-site mounting of terraced houses and apartment buildings. 

And we did not stop there. We also provided in-depth calculations proving that there is a healthy business case to be gained.

Our partnership achieved this by jointly exploring the entire renovation process, identifying ways to automate each step. This way, we achieved a 50% reduction of the total renovation costs.

A visualisation of a factory concept blending into a green landscape.

Visualisation of the INDU-ZERO factory concept. The production facilities blend into a green landscape. The factory is expected to generate an annual turnover of approximately 675 million euros, with terraced houses being renovated to zero-on-the-meter and apartments to net zero.

More than a factory

The INDU-ZERO factory has fully automated warehousing and production lines. We learned from the car industry which has used fully-automated processes for decades.

However, the building is much more than a normal production facility.

It has facilities to attract visitors and show the production process; it is multi-functional with for example conference spaces and fitness and wellness areas.

And last but not least, the building is designed to be circular and blend into a beautiful landscape, offering a sustainable and healthy environment for the employees. As a visitor, you can experience the factory through specially designed boardwalks, utilise areas designated for public recreation, or stroll through the beautiful surroundings.

Take a virtual tour of the INDU-ZERO factory concept:

Remote video URL

Renovating a terraced house in 3 days

"This is impossible," you might think. Normally this takes weeks or months! INDU-ZERO worked with the Dutch housing association Domijn in Enschede to demonstrate how it would work in practice. Three existing houses were retrofitted using concepts developed by INDU-ZERO and the project partners RC Panels and buro de Haan. These pilot houses can be retrofitted  in the Future in no more than 3 days. And the residents can even stay at home during the renovation work.

Headshot of Rutger Vrielink and a quote

Prefabrication is key

The key to fast renovation is the concept of putting an additional prefabricated insulation and finishing layer around the house. This means that a new facade and roof are added to the old facade. The old windows are the only parts that are taken out before adding the new layer.

All installations such as heatpumps and ventilation are added as well. This makes the renovated homes energy self-sufficient with no need for extra electricity or gas.

Two construction workers in an orange lift in front of retrofit cladding that is being put into place

INDU-ZERO renovation in action: The innovative cladding is being put into place.

The INDU-ZERO showcase

What does this look like? To experience the results, three houses in the Netherlands were renovated for real. One of them is the INDU-ZERO showcase house where visitors can experience the results. 

Come on a guided tour around the INDU-ZERO showcase home: 

Remote video URL

Taking smart renovation into the future

The INDU-ZERO project may be over, but the journey does not stop here. One clear sign of that is the strong support by the European Commission for the Smart Renovation Factory concept. At our final conference, Head of Cabinet of Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans, Diderick Samson and the Dutch MEP Mohammed Chahim both expressed their support for INDU-ZERO in video messages. 

The next challenge is to build the first real factory. Even with a fully-fledged concept and a compelling business case, many barriers need to be overcome.

During the project, a dealmaker’s group with German and Dutch industries came together in order to discuss how to realise the first factory. And since the project closed last year, I have been invited to Brussels several times to talk to the European Commission's departments for energy and growth, DG ENER and DG GROW, about how to promote the INDU-ZERO factory blueprint. Also, the European Alliance of Companies for Energy Efficiency in Buildings, EuroACE, is engaging in this process.

The three houses retrofitted by INDU-ZERO including solar panels and insulating cladding

Houses retrofitted through INDU-ZERO, including solar roof panels and insulating cladding.

On a smaller scale, INDU-ZERO brought forward energy efficiency product innovation. One example are windowpanes that are both super thin, super durable, and super insulating, with a low CO2 footprint and 100% recyclable. The new product, Viduci, is already launched on the market.

Linda Sjerps-Koomen, manager of business development at Rc panels, says: “Geopolitics, energy poverty and climate change all require us to step forward. The partners in INDU-ZERO did so. Products are here and we are ready to scale up. A growing number of housing companies are now joining this challenge. It can be done, it needs to be done, and we need to sit next to each other at the same side of the table, helping to speed up the processes.” 

Headshot and quote by Lianda Sjerps-Koomen

The power of partnership

The added value of transnational cooperation in the INDU-ZERO project was enormous. Mutual brainstorming and alignment were essential to reach success.

Also, each partner had something unique to contribute. For example, the universities took the lead in developing the logistics and production processes, calculating the business case and assessing the climate impacts of various options.

The business partners also proved vital to our success. For example, the housing association Domijn provided a real case for testing the concept. Companies delivered innovative components for construction and visualisations for  communicating the concept. And the public partners took stock of the regional conditions, such as adjusting the Smart Factory concept to wooden buildings for Norway and Sweden.

Without the complementary competencies and hard work put in by all the partners, this project and its results would not have been possible. 

Group photo of the INDU-ZERO team in a snow-clad landscape

INDU-ZERO involved 14 partners in Belgium, Germany, Norway, Sweden, UK and the Netherlands.

Top 3 project highlights


INDU-ZERO showcase home

During six months, more than 300 people visited the showcase house, including the Commissary of the King of the Netherlands together with the ministers and director from the province Overijssel. 


Support by the European Commission

At INDU-ZERO's final event, Head of Cabinet of Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans, Diderick Samson and Dutch MEP Mohammed Chahim provided video statements supporting the INDU-ZERO project and urging for its results to be taken up.


New sustainable product

Three SMEs from Belgium and the Netherlands jointly developed a new sustainable product through INDU-ZERO: A nearly frameless window with vacuum glass that was first presented in the INDU-ZERO showcase building. The product Viduci is now available on the market!

Learn more

To learn more about INDU-ZERO, visit the project website:

Interested in details about the factory, such as logistics or the business case calculations?  

Get in touch

If you would like to talk to the people behind the project, feel free to contact project manager Ulla-Britt Krämer at, phone +31 38 499 7596.

About the author

Headshot of Ulla-Britt Krämer

Ulla-Britt Krämer is a project leader at the Province of Overijssel, where she has been working since 2009. She holds an MSc in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Bremen in Germany.

She has international work experience in both the private and public sectors and currently leads the European projects within the building sector.