Minimum heating – maximum effect. How kindergartens and schools of Konotop are being refurbished

Konotop is one of the largest towns in Northern Ukraine, with almost 90 thousand residents. Many industrial and transport enterprises have been operating or still operate here. Rapid development of local economy has led to rapid growth in the number of residents in the second part of the past century. So, Konotop required a more and more developed social infrastructure. New schools, kindergartens, hospitals, cultural and sports facilities appeared in the town. Normally, the buildings for them were erected at a high speed. And these buildings, in particular, the ones built in the 1970-ies-1980ies, did not always meet local climatic conditions, and all the more ­– energy efficiency principles.
 Some buildings were built under the design developed for Southern Ukraine: slab, joints, flat roof. These were the 1970ies what was needed back then was large volumes, many buildings were built, but nobody paid attention to energy saving. Coal and gas were cheap. In spite of the fact that in many buildings the temperature was 12-13 degrees. In particular, if that was the northern side, – says the head of the Department of Economy of Konotop Town Council Liudmyla Hapieyeva.
They tried to make up for the architectural imperfectness of those buildings and the temperature imbalance caused by it with more intensive heating. But gradually the demand among social infrastructure users of Konotop for comfort increased, while energy carrier tariffs were already approaching market figures. In the zero years of the ХХІst century the Town Council of Konotop started looking for ways to make public institutions more comfortable for their users. At the same time, officials were trying to optimize energy consumption in municipal buildings.

Systemic change launch

Konotop Town City started implementing the first energy saving project in 2007. Back then the town won the grant within which it procured the system of heat consumption control – devices and software. It was installed in all town-owned buildings. Due to this system the specialists of the Town Council managed to realize what the problems and needs of the town in the field of energy saving were. That referred to both local and systemic steps.

On the one hand, Konotop compiled energy consumption ranking for the buildings that were on the books of the town. They started allocating and looking for the money for the refurbishment of the buildings with the worst figures: façade heating, window and door replacement. The town started cooperating with the Nordic Environment Finance Corporation (NEFCO), and the first credits were obtained for such works.

On the other hand, ongoing monitoring and compilation of the cost efficiency ranking enabled the authorities to have a comprehensive view of energy consumption by all the facilities of Konotop. The town started looking for the ways for introducing systemic changes. They got a chance in 2011, when the European Union announced expansion of the program ‘Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy’ onto the Eastern Partnership countries, Ukraine being among them. Its objective is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions via changes in individual municipalities. It was then that Konotop joined the Program.

There is more than enough information for analytics. We have figures dating back to 2008: both for the whole year, and for the heating seasons. In 2011, when we were writing the application, we had some basic data and the understanding of which facilities need to be insulated: as number one, two, three, what can be done with the funds of the local budget, with the minimum investment, what requires external funding, – says Liudmyla Hapieyeva.

Having joined the ‘Covenants of Mayors’, in 2014 Konotop Town Council developed Sustainable Energy Action Plan till 2020. This document determines whole towns in the domains of ecology and energy consumption. It also determines the steps related to them. Under the Plan, Konotop was striving to reduce CO2 emissions and to reduce energy consumption at least by 20% till 2020. In order to achieve this goal, the town authorities focuses not only on municipal facilities, but also stimulated energy refurbishment in residential building and at enterprises, in particular, at large industrial complexes. Town residents and businessmen were told about the benefits of insulation and ways of reducing heat, light and water consumption.

Energy efficiency demonstration

To make its performance of the Sustainable Energy Action Plan effective, the town required continued serious infrastructural projects that would introduce energy efficiency principles, prove their efficiency.

On the eve of the document approval, in 2013 the share of public institutions, unlike residential sector and business, in the overall energy consumption in Konotop was relatively small: just 2.4% of the annual volume of natural gas and 10.3% of electricity. However, it was facilities owned by the municipality that were most accessible for refurbishment on the town authorities’ initiative. At the same time, in these buildings it was most difficult to have capital repairs, since there was always not enough money in the town budget for that.

The occasion to fully refurbish some public facilities appeared in 2014. Then the EU within the ‘Covenants of Mayors’ announced the tender for demonstration project. Its winners would get grant money for comprehensive energy refurbishment of the residential and municipal system or separate municipal facilities. Konotop’s proposal got into the list of finalists.

Control over energy consumption since 2008 has proven that most uneconomical among all public facilities are the town’s educational institutions. In 2013 they consumed 51.3% of the electricity used and 68.9% of natural gas. Thus, it was the buildings of this segment that showed the primary need for thermal refurbishment.

Project participants have been selected in a transparent way. None of the headmasters and directors [of educational institutions the author] had any questions like: Why them, and not us?. Everybody knows the conditions of one another, has been to all institutions in the winter time. We had energy consumption figures. Besides that, these facilities have been included to the Sustainable Energy Action Plan. So, they were to be the first to undergo refurbishment, – Liudmyla Hapieyeva thus explains the principle of building selection for thermal refurbishment within the project.

Kindergarten No. 10 ‘Yalynka’ and Konotop Grammar School were to undergo comprehensive repairs. The overall estimate of expenditure for the project amounted to 500 thousand Euros. 400 thousand were provided by the EU, while 100 thousand Euros were to be allocated from the town budget. Liudmyla Hapieyeva states that the Town Council’s deputies agreed to such costs, since they saw the prospects of energy saving due to refurbishment. Also, that was a rare chance to improve comfort in the buildings that had not undergone capital repairs since the time of their construction. In 2015 energy refurbishment project started being developed for the kindergarten and for the grammar school, and the search of contractors was launched.

Not to heat air on the outside

The kindergarten ‘Yalynka’ is located in the middle of one of the private sectors of Konotop, several kilometers from the town’s centre. The communications manager of the project Anastasiya Zahorodnia says that the Department of Economy of the Town Council was preparing an application for participation in the initiative ‘Covenant of Mayors-Demonstration Projects’, there was not a single new window in that institution. Though back then in many schools and kindergartens of the town they had already been replaced for the money of individual benefactors or parents.

That proved that families living close to ‘Yalynka’ could not additionally invest money into the institution where their children studied. There was not enough money in the local budget for the comprehensive retrofitting of the building, while local changes did not yield any considerable effect.

The temperature regime in the kindergarten did not meet the norm. Then stained-glass windows and windows in the kitchen were later replaced. While in groups they remained old. The building ‘was lit’ under the thermal imaging device, we used to heat outer air’, – recalls Liudmyla Hapieyeva.

The director of the kindergarten ‘Yalynka’ Halyna Cheremnykh says that in cold seasons in some rooms of the building heating did not yield any desirable comfort: Parents could take their child to the kindergarten and know that a whole number of heaters would be turned on, but still the heating could be adequate the temperature would be no more than 15 degrees.

Thermal refurbishment of ‘Yalynka’ was launched not long before the commencement of the ‘Covenant of Mayors’ demonstration project. A new boiler house was built at the expense of the NEFCO credit facility. It works on renewable raw materials – wood – and is more powerful than the old gas one. The design of the new boiler house was already developed through the prism of thermal refurbishment of the whole kindergarten. Sometimes, when it was very cold, they additionally used old heating capacities in ‘Yalynka’. But that happened only until the building was insulated.

Within the ‘Covenant of Mayors’ the façade and footing were insulated in the kindergarten ‘Yalynka’, the roof was replaced and sealed double glazed units were installed, anti-lightning protection was installed and ramps were built. Also, thanks to the project, this institution became the first out of all other public institutions of Konotop to get the heat recovery system. It allows controlling the temperature inside the building and automatic reduction or increasing of heating intensity to avoid ungrounded costs and preserve comfortable conditions.

We recorded an interview with Halyna Cheremnykh in mid-November 2019. The temperature outdoors was 8 degrees above zero. The director of the kindergarten says that such temperature does not require such an intensive heating as they used to have.

We were faced with some inconveniences during the repairs. But both we and parents knew why it was necessary to go through all that. And that’s how it happened: now people take their children and know that the temperature will definitely be not lower than 20 degrees. And material result is also noticeable now it is already cold outdoors, but we use just a bit of fuel. Minimum heating maximum effect, – explains Halyna Cheremnykh.


Over the 2019-2020 heating season the kindergarten ‘Yalynka’ has consumed twice less heat than in the 2015-2016 heating season that was taken as the baseline for calculations. According to the assessment provided by the demonstration project experts who studied the efficiency of the changes introduced, over last winter this educational institution has saved 188,52 UAH of the heating costs planned for this period.

Taking climatic conditions into account

Konotop Grammar School is located in the very centre of the town. That is one of the most popular town’s educational institutions. It takes the 4th place out of 14 in terms of the number of students. Besides that, as Liudmyla Hapieyeva points out, Konotop Grammar School is also a platform for interaction between local children and youth. Most students and teachers stay in the building not just in the first part of the day, as they normally do in similar institutions. Since after classes many hobby group meetings, trainings, discussions are held there.

At the same time, till 2015 the building of Konotop Grammar School used to be among the most problematic ones in the educational field of the town, if we speak about temperature comfort and energy efficiency. That is one of the buildings erected following ‘southern type’ and not meeting climatic conditions of the north of Ukraine. In spite of heating intensity, in some classrooms the temperature could not rise to the mark acceptable for the cold season.

In the autumn and winter period it used to be very cold in our educational institution. No adequate temperature regime was secured in the assembly hall and the gymnasium. In some classrooms there was permanent mould. In winter it was sometimes so cold that we even allowed children to stay in their outer clothing’, – says the headmaster of Konotop Grammar School Yuliya Barannyk.

In her educational institution, before the tender for ‘Covenant of Mayors’ demonstration projects was announced, children had been taught energy efficiency principles, thematic competitions had been organized. However, they managed to visually show the advantages of conscious energy consumption only with the help of the European Union.

For several years within the project the façade, roof and footing were insulated in the building, all windows and doors were replaced, ventilation was installed. From one of the coolest educational institutions in the town Konotop Grammar School turned into one of the warmest. Now the temperature in the building does not go below 20 degrees. Also, there are no more premises in the building with roof leaking, as it used to be before the retrofitting.

Insulation has been completed recently, but already now, in autumn, we feel that it is much warmer in the building than it used to be in the previous years. I guess we will feel the effect to the full when heating is turned on, and it will finally be warm in the grammar school in winter. Finally, our institution has become highly attractive aesthetically, after the façade had been repaired. Children like it very much, – sums up Yuliya Barannyk.

Refurbished Konotop Grammar School has not yet gone through any heating season as a fully refurbished facility. But the savings of resources were noticeable even when the retrofitting was only approaching its completion. Last autumn only one of the four sections of the building was insulated, and in three sections new windows were installed. But even under such conditions for the 2019-2020 heating season Konotop Grammar School has consumed 88.26 gigacalories less than in the pre-retrofitting season of 2015-2016. According to expert estimations, over the last winter the institution has saved 15,079 UAH of the energy costs planned. After all repair works are completed, the savings of energy resources are expected to reach 400 Gcal/year.

New decade – new objectives

Тhermal refurbishment of the kindergarten ‘Yalynka’ also had another important effect. The local team of the demonstration project of the ‘Covenant of Mayors’ has estimated that after the repairs the incidence of catching a cold among the children fell down in the institution. While in 2015 the kindergarten was regularly not attended by 105 children due to their being ill, in 2019 the figure was already 87. The Town Council hopes that after retrofitting education in Konotop Grammar School will also become safer.

Konotop has already reached some global progress. 2020 is the year of completion of the Sustainable Energy Action Plan the objective of which was to reduce heat consumption and CO2 emission in the town by 20%. Over the past heating season, the educational institutions of Konotop have in total consumed 14.7% (1,664.4 MW) less of energy than in the baseline season of 2015-2016. СО2 emission reduction for similar periods is also at a rate of 14.7%.

The demonstration project in Konotop was not limited to municipal institutions. Right after joining the initiative, the town authorities involved the representatives of the largest town enterprises in the development of the Sustainable Energy Action Plan. Thanks to that business became convinced of the need to reduce its own СО2 emission and of the benefits of thermal refurbishment. At many enterprises repairs were done, energy consumption was reduced. For example, the reinforcement plant acquired new, less energy-consuming equipment. The aviation enterprise ‘Aviakon’ refurbished the boiler house in its territory, it heats the whole district of Konotop.

The town authorities launched a long-term campaign of raising awareness of residents of individual and global benefits of thermal refurbishment, in particular, through encouraging people to use the money of the State Energy Efficiency and Energy Saving Agency’s program. Directly within the demonstration project of the ‘Covenant of Mayors’, its team tried to ‘bring up conscious energy consumers’. Over the years of its implementation thematic classes with students have been conducted, teachers have been instructed, management of public institutions has been motivated to reduce the scope of energy consumption, an interactive playground has been arranged in the town center, where people could learn about ways of heat, electricity, and water-saving.

Back in 2019 Konotop Town Council extended its membership in the ‘Covenant of Mayors’ till 2030. Local specialists are already developing the Sustainable Energy Action Plan. The town has already got some results of comprehensive energy audits of municipal institutions, where they would like to reach the same level of savings as in the kindergarten ‘Yalynka’.

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