Renovating with Residents

Service design • 2021

Involving residents in the design of their homes

The City of Amsterdam is trying to accelarate and improve the energy transition in collaboration with AMS Institute and several educational institutions with Energie Lab Zuidoost. One of the projects Energie Lab Zuidoost is involved in, is the renovation of 280 apartments in Reigersbos. I looked at including residents in the renovation process of their own homes, so the end result will match with their wishes, behaviour and needs.

The building in Reigersbos, showing three levels of apartments.
My project took place in the context of a renovation in Reigersbos where the facade needs to be replaced.
Vents above windows covered with transparent tape.
When installations don’t fulfill our needs, we will try to find work-arounds, like taping vents shut. In the best case, it’s just annoying for ourselves. In the worst case, it’s dangerous, unhealthy and unsustainable.
A simplified journey map showing the journeys for the resident, their apartment, the renovator and a demo apartment.
I looked at the resident journey for sustainable renovations.
Five groups of stakeholders involved in a renovation.
In a building with tenants and home owners, there are many different parties involved in a renovation. However, residents do not often have a lot of control over the outcome of the renovation and their knowledge is lost.
An illustration where an activity, group or product are represented as a circle: an obstacle boundary. Inside, people are included. Outside, people are excluded. A larger, dotted circle represents a widened obstacle boundary.
I focused a lot on inclusion: removing obstacles for people to include them in my design process, the renovation and their homes.

Five interventions for the renovation process

Currently, residents get a tour of a demo apartment and can find information on a website. However, this is often quite technical, making it hard to follow without a technical background or with low literacy. I designed five interventions in the renovation process, including a printed booklet showing the plans, to involve residents in the process in a way which suits them.

Photo of a booklet (the renovation guide) in front of a plan.
One of the five interventions is a renovation guide: it explains the plans in a visual way, focusing on how the experience changes.
An illustration of five interventions: survey session, renovation guide, experience tour, co-creation session, and result communication.
The five interventions also include two sessions where residents can share their knowledge with the renovation team, a tour where people can experience the proposed solutions and a moment where the team communicates how they updated the plans.
A more extensive process map showing the five interventions in context.
The interventions fit with the existing process. However, different stakeholders have their own specific perspectives on renovation processes. So, I made sure to find the overlap and define the roles for parties such as the municipality and housing association, next to the renovating party.

Running a service design graduation project

This project took 25 weeks. I did research (observations, contextmapping, expert interviews), service design (formulating directions, formulating interventions, creating prototypes) and validation (testing with users, evaluations with stakeholders). Next to the municipality, I also collaborated with Klimaatmissie Nederland, the renovating party, and Stichting !WOON, an association which supports home owners and tenants in Amsterdam.

A photo of me standing behind a high table in a street in Reigersbos
I used several methods to get in contact with residents. Next to interviews through video conferencing, in a demo apartment and at their homes, I also did short interviews on the main street in the neighbourhood.
An illustration of an apartment with floating boxes showing different problems, accompanied by quotes.
From my research, I got a lot of insights into the problems residents already face, what they hope and fear concerning a renovation, and what mechanisms cause the mismatches between our homes and us.
An explanation of ventilation with boxes showing explaining the good and bad of this prototype.
I created and tested three iterations of the renovation guide, going from a simple one-page explanation of ventilation...
Two pages of the renovation guides with design details highlighted, such as it being printed and showing changes. a renovation guide with before/after photos, short texts, room for comments and other design features which helped the participating residents better understand the renovation plans. For example, the booklet is printed because this works for more people than just a website.


  1. I’m quite confident with a certain kind of interviews, where we sit down for a fixed amount of time. Interviewing people on the street without an appointment requires a completely different approach. Fun, simple activities help to entice passerby to join, and you have to be even more sure of what your main question(s) are.
  2. Recruitment can be difficult in a very specific context. I would have probably made it easier for myself by asking all my participants to recommend other people to me and recruit people even when I didn’t need them yet.
  3. It’s easy to try and show that you know everything when it comes to (graduation) projects. For me, this meant I needed to keep reminding myself making mistakes really is valuable and that it’s fine to show uncertainty to stakeholders.

Find out more

If you’re interested in the topic, you can find a summary and my report here:


Where can I find you? 👀

In a lot of places I guess, but definitely here: