At present Germany lacks hundreds of thousands of affordable homes. For this reason, lobby groups from the housing sector have repeatedly argued for the relaxation of energy requirements for new-builds in order to lower construction costs. In a similar vein, the British government has already abolished the regulation that stipulated all new homes to be zero-carbon by 2016. The German government and the German Federal Architects’ Association are, thus far, opposing the implementation of similar steps in Germany.
They are justified in their stance, as residential buildings erected today will only be refurbished again in 30 or 40 years’ time and during this time, they will contribute to climate change with their CO2 emissions. It would be utterly misguided, therefore, to reduce their energy efficiency. None-the-less, the fact remains that high energy efficiency is often financially unviable, particularly in the case of refurbishments. Likewise, many of the buildings presented in this issue of Detail green were only realised thanks to public funding or thanks to the clients’ willingness to include aspects other than merely financial aspects in their calculations.
At first glance, the dilemma might seem to be largely due to the current low price of fossil fuels. There is, however, a more deep-rooted reason: CO2 emissions from buildings are still free of charge as they are not part of the EU-wide emissions trading scheme. According to estimates by the German Federal Environmental Agency, each ton of CO2 should cost at least 80 Euros to compensate for the climate and environmental damage caused. Rising costs may be unpopular, but placing a price tag on CO2 would have a great advantage, as it would help to repay the investments in energy efficiency and renewables far quicker than at present, thereby bypassing much of the over complex public funding and energy regulation that architects currently have to struggle with.