By Riham Alkousaa
BOCHUM (Germany) (Reuters) – A Berlin-based startup is to renovate apartment buildings in the German city of Bochum, giving them a tailored wooden “second skin” to make them more energy efficient.
The project by Ecoworks reflects growing demand for climate-friendly and energy saving renovations in response to Germany’s energy crisis that has caused a surge in heating costs.
Before the crisis, landlords saw renovations to make residential buildings more energy efficient as a nice to have, rather than essential in a sector that missed its CO2 targets in Germany last year.
Now that is changing because of the rising energy prices and a new law that splits a CO2 levy between tenants and landlords depending on buildings’ efficiency.
“In this property, about 70 % to 80% of the energy costs are saved,” Emanuel Heisenberg, the CEO of Ecoworks, told Reuters, referring to the Bochum apartment buildings.
Buildings account for 35% of total energy consumption in Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, where almost a third of its 19.25 million residential buildings have the lowest and next to lowest rankings on energy efficiency, a study by the GdW housing and real estate association showed in February.
A spike in interest rates, increasing energy and raw materials prices along with constantly changing subsidies are limiting investments, Andreas Schichel, a GdW spokesperson, told Reuters.
A shortage of construction workers and lengthy renovation processes are additional barriers that make landlords hesitant to take on such projects.
Heisenberg’s company is trying to overcome these obstacles by designing pre-fabricated climate-neutral facades with a technology that needs about third of the time and half the workforce.
“Normally such projects take 6 to 9 months. In our case, it takes 15 weeks,” said Heisenberg.
By using cellulose for insulation and wood for the outer facades, the company says its renovations are CO2 neutral.
“You cannot tear down all the houses and build them new with cement with steel. It’s just well above our carbon budget. So you have to build with renewable materials such as wood,” Heisenberg said.
(Reporting by Riham Alkousaa, Petra Wischgoll and Stéphane Nitschke. Editing by Jane Merriman)
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