State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

Students Design Energy Retrofit Program for Montenegro

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The Sustainability Management students and the UNDP staff at their Podgorica office. From left:  Rastislav Vrbenfky, Adam Gordon, Kristina Alnes, Selim Lika, Jelena Janjusbvic, Eduardo Vega Vega, Dragana Cenic. (Photo: Kristina Alnes)

When four Master of Science in Sustainability Management students landed in Podgorica, Montenegro, in January, they were carrying an energy efficiency plan that promised to save the country money and energy, and to create jobs. These benefits would come from the energy retrofitting of some 100,000 buildings that have sprouted without permits in the last 20 years. In this building frenzy, people have overlooked building codes, including energy efficiency measures.

The students – Kristina Alnes, Adam Gordon, Selim Lika, and Eduardo Vega Vega – were part of a team participating in the Integrative Capstone Workshop in Sustainability Management course. Working as consultants for the Ministry of Sustainable Development and Tourism, the Capstone team designed a national program that would allow for retrofitting all of these so-called informal buildings over 10 years. The team delivered a program design that married successful approaches to building energy retrofitting in the United States and Central Europe with the political and regulatory conditions in Montenegro.

A typical unpermitted house in the Montenegrin countryside. (Photo: Kristina Alnes)

In states such as Vermont and Washington, building energy retrofitting has produced a blend of economic and environmental benefits. Building owners save money by reducing their heating and cooling bills; the retrofitting creates jobs; and lower fossil fuel usage reduces air and greenhouse gas emissions. The students were in Podgorica to make the case that Montenegro could benefit in these same ways by encouraging people to retrofit their buildings as part of a larger effort to legalize them.

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Unstructured city planning near the city of Ulcinj. (Photo: Kristina Alnes)

“Montenegro has the opportunity to reduce its energy consumption and reduce its environmental impact on a grand scale, which will concurrently improve building performance and economic output,” said project manager Adam Gordon. “It has been a real honor for our team to work on such an important national-level project with senior officials.”

During the trip to Montenegro, made possible by an Earth Institute travel grant, the team presented the project design to the minister of sustainable development and tourism, H.E. Branimir Gvozdenovic, as well as representatives from the Ministry of Housing and the Deputy Minister of Economy. The students also met with the staff at the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and discussed plans for initiating a pilot project. The project proposal was well received, and the students are currently seeking opportunities to continue to work with the government in continuing the development of the building energy efficiency retrofitting program.

The full list of students working on the Montenegro project are listed below. You can view the presentation for the Design of a Building Energy Retrofitting Program for Montenegro Capstone group here.

Design of a Building Energy Retrofitting Program for Montenegro Project Team Members:

Kristina Alnes
Mona Benisi
Michael Brochstein
Lillian Cheng
Adam Gordon
Marisa Hanson
Petra Kandus
Amanda Lechenet
Selim Lika
Julia Moshkin
Uzoma Okoro
Charlotte Peyraud
Behzad Torabifar
Eduardo Vega Vega
Sarah Volkman

The M.S. in Sustainability Management, co-sponsored by the Earth Institute and Columbia’s School of Continuing Education, trains students to tackle complex and pressing environmental and managerial challenges. The program requires the successful completion of 36 credit points. Those credit points are divided among five comprehensive content areas: integrative sustainability management, economics and quantitative analysis, the physical dimensions of sustainability, the public policy environment of sustainability management, and general and financial management. Visit our website to learn more.    


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