Sustainable buildings How to: building, renovating, saving energy

Only very few energy-efficient homes have been built. Most of the time it’s not difficult to do – and it pays off in the long run.

by Stephan Lehmann-Maldonado 12 Oct 2016

How to: GEAK® demonstrates how buildings can be renovated to make them energy efficient. Photo: UBS

A panacea remains illusive. Houses that double as power plants are, on the other hand, in the realm of possibility. The first house with an autonomous power supply accommodates several families and has been recently built in Brütten. It does not require an external power supply at all.

One hour of sunshine a day is enough to secure the building’s energy needs for 24 hours. The energy can be stored for so long that the residents won’t have to freeze even in a dark winter month. The developer Walter Schmid, who also built the Umwelt Arena in Spreitenbach, is the initiator of the multifunctional house.

Buildings – Number one energy guzzler

The showcase building is an exception. Most buildings are energy wasters. The Federal Office of Energy Building wrote in its most recent report that buildings in Switzerland are still responsible for more than half of the country’s CO2 emissions. Promising technologies are underutilised.

It would be possible to cut back power consumption significantly with just a few structural measures. This applies to both new buildings and for building renovations. In terms of design there is no need to make concessions. This is evidenced, for example, in the buildings designed by the star architects Jacques Herzog & Pierre de Meuron (for Helvetia Patria in St. Gallen) and Daniel Libeskind (Migros leisure and shopping centre Westside in Bern).

How energy efficient is my house?

A building can only become environmentally friendly by making a substantial investment in the insulation and the ventilation system. But it will also substantially increase living comfort. And some of the additional costs can be amortised with the savings in heating costs. In addition, ecological buildings often fetch higher prices when sold. Ultimately, eco-efficiency pays off.

But who can confirm whether a house is really energy efficient? The energy performance certificate of the cantons (GEAK®) has done just that since 2009. Similar to cars and household appliances, a glance at a label and you’ll know how much energy a building consumes. In addition, GEAK® provides information about how a building can be renovated to make it energy efficient. This represents a first step towards a house that is also a power plant.

Energy efficiency – three key questions

1. How energy efficient is my house?

To find out, it is worth checking into a GEAK® (canton energy performance certificate). This certificate shows how energy efficient your home is. It provides you with an expert report on the energy efficiency of the building shell and the standard energy consumption of your home. This can help you to plan renovations and refurbishments over the long term.

2. How much does a standard GEAK® cost?

Contact a certified GEAK® expert. An expert will offer to issue a certificate for your home. The cost for a single-family home is between 450-650 francs.

3. What are the benefits of energy efficiency?

There are three benefits. First, you are actively contributing to a healthy environment for future generations. Second, you save energy and thus heating and associated costs. The higher the energy prices, the more noticeable it will be. Third, regular maintenance can increase the market value of your property. This argument continues to gain in importance.