Innovative concepts for eco-friendly and sustainable properties
Interview with Dr Rainer Fauth, Sustainability Project Manager at CG Plan GmbH
Global climate change is undoubtedly one of the greatest and most fundamental challenges of our time. It was agreed at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris in 2015 to limit global warming to less than 2°C. To achieve this, global net greenhouse gas emissions will have to be reduced to zero by the second half of this century. This is a momentous task, not only for the international community but also for the global economy. Every industry is obliged to play its part – not least the property sector. Especially so, because buildings demonstrably produce around 40% of all CO₂ emissions worldwide. Yet as it stands, most measures designed to counteract this barely extend beyond facade insulation.
CG Elementum, on the other hand, is thinking ahead. It is fully committed to using green technology to make carbon-neutral, resource-conserving properties a reality. “In order to ensure ecological sustainability of a new and higher calibre, we have enshrined this elemental issue in our planning right from the start. Our approach includes innovative recycled materials and avoiding greenhouse gases by using local sources of environmental heat,” explains Dr Rainer Fauth, Sustainability Project Manager at CG Plan, a subsidiary of CG Elementum.
Making old into new – we take the circular economy seriously!
“A core component of this sustainability concept is checking the eco credentials of all our building materials, for example their carbon footprint. The most resource-friendly building materials are in fact those that already consist fully or partially of recycled materials,” attests Dr Fauth. It is now already possible to produce prefabricated components entirely from recycled concrete, which is made using processed construction rubble. In keeping with the urban mining concept, this conserves natural stone and river gravel.
Yet CG Elementum reuses not only concrete. Kerazzo is used for visible surfaces such as wall and floor coverings. This material is inspired by the idea of terrazzo, a well-known feature in antique buildings. In an innovative new process, up to 78% recycled materials such as waste glass, marble, granite and quartzite are formed into attractive panels. These can then be laid without visible joint lines. In contrast to ceramic tiles, almost any design can be produced. And at just 6.6 mm thick, they also weigh only half as much. They are easier to transport and lay, are low-maintenance, and have antibacterial properties. The company TREND Kerazzo Deutschland handles distribution of the panels for CG Elementum. Its innovative product has already been awarded GREENGUARD Children & Schools certification, while certification with a Blue Angel ecolabel has been initiated.
Earth, water, light – renewable energy solutions for every project
A holistic approach is essential when considering carbon-saving energy supplies that conserve resources. “Not every kind of technology can be used for every building project. Nevertheless, there are suitable solutions for every project, whether geothermal or solar thermal energy, water source thermal energy, wind power or photovoltaics. Photovoltaics is particularly useful where there are extensive roof areas, like in our large-scale Plagwitzer Höfe project,” explains Dr Fauth. With 5,684 individual modules, a total surface area of 9,600 m2 and a nominal capacity of 1.6 MWp, this is the largest system of its kind in Leipzig. It saves around 750 tons of CO₂ every year, which corresponds roughly to the annual CO₂ output of 250 diesel cars.
In other projects it makes sense to focus more on geothermal energy, thermal energy from running water or wind power, as Dr Fauth explains: “Basically, for each project we have to check which forms of environmental heat are available locally. Where we can use groundwater and terrestrial heat, then geothermal energy is a better fit. In areas with running water sources nearby, it then makes sense to focus on thermal energy from river water instead.”
Zero-emissions district – the OTTO Quarter
The successful development of a zero-emissions project usually requires a judicious combination of different innovative technologies as well as the harnessing of all available resources. The OTTO Quarter in Wendlingen is an initial beacon project for this holistic approach. With its central infrastructure for energy, water and mobility, the quarter is well on its way to becoming Germany’s first zero-emissions district.
In addition to photovoltaic systems on the roofs, measures also include assessing whether thermal energy from the nearby Neckar river can be harnessed using a modified water intake structure. Heat exchangers will also be used to recover energy from the quarter’s wastewater. An option for combining this with geothermal heat pumps is also being explored. The high proportion of renewable energy resulting from all this will help achieve the zero-emissions objective. “We have already made relatively good progress with the OTTO Quarter. But comprehensive energy concepts of this kind will become standard for all new projects,” emphasises Dr Fauth. “We think long term. Our planning includes not only climate and resource protection but also operating costs over a property’s entire life cycle.”
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