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Green real estate

The German federal government wants all buildings to be virtually climate-neutral by 2050. It is the vigorous renovation of the 21 million or so buildings in the country that is especially calling for massive investments.

The Studentenstadt in Munich is the largest student housing complex in Germany. Today, nearly 2,500 people call Studentenstadt their home.

Huge savings potential

The 21 million buildings in Germany account for around 35% of the energy consumed in the country. The largest portion of this energy, over 60%, is attributed to residential buildings; the remaining share is consumed by commercial properties. The German population spends roughly 70 billion euros a year on heating, hot water, lighting and cooling in residential and non-residential buildings. Almost two thirds of the residential buildings in Germany were constructed before the first Ordinance on Thermal Insulation came into effect in 1979. Consuming up to five times more energy than buildings constructed after 2001, these structures harbour huge potential for energy savings.

Video: Green ‘concrete gold’: Brigitte Walter, board member of Real I.S. AG, on the importance of sustainability in the property sector

From energy consumers to energy generators

By 2050, the federal government wants all buildings to be virtually climate-neutral. This sector is aiming to cut greenhouse gas emissions by up to 67% compared with 1990 levels by 2030. The main aspects of its action plan are:

  • Demanding standards for new buildings

  • Long-term modernisation strategies for existing buildings

  • Gradual reduction in the use of heating systems powered by fossil fuels

In addition, the sector must look into incentives to encourage the construction of buildings that generate more energy than they require (surplus energy buildings).

Climate risks in the real estate sector

Specifically the renovation and upgrading of energy systems in existing buildings will require significant investment. Owners of commercial properties who fail to make the required investments may expose themselves to financial risks. A study by the Energy Efficiency Financial Forum lists the following risks for buildings with low energy efficiency:

  • Rising energy prices have a disproportionately significant effect

  • Buildings become increasingly difficult to lease

  • Property value may fall

  • At a disadvantage compared with green properties

  • Risk of energy system upgrade at high financial cost

Certifications provide initial guidance

Sustainability certifications help tenants and buyers to determine whether a building meets environmental and social standards. There are a range of certifications available, all of which use a number of criteria to determine how sustainable a property is. An overview:

  • BREEAM: Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Methodology

  • DGNB: Deutsche Gesellschaft für Nachhaltiges Bauen (German Sustainable Building Council)

  • HQE: Haute Qualité Environnementale

  • LEED: Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design

  • NABERS: National Australian Built Environment Rating System

The energy consumption and CO2 emissions of a property are often used as a criterion in the certification process.