When global leaders meet for the Climate Conference in Paris to discuss how to drastically reduce the world's CO2 emissions, the Swiss may have part of the answer.
Consider living in a building whose only power supply is the sun, emitting zero CO2. This utopia will be completed early in spring 2016. Not in the tropics or in the Middle East, but here in Switzerland.
In picturesque Brütten, Winterthur, to be exact.
Brütten is an ideal location as it lies 640 m above sea level and is above the fog line, as well as being on the thoroughfare between Zürich and Winterthur. On November 19, 2015, some 150 invited guests celebrated the "topping out" ceremony here when the structural work and the timber work truss were erected. Occupancy is expected in June 2016.
The Apartment House of the Future - Now
Early this year, the symbolic foundation stone was laid at the Umwelt Arena in Spreitenbach. The cutting-edge Brütten project includes a block of flats for nine families, which will not be linked to any electrical, oil or gas connections.
Not even wood will be used as fuel.
The gauntlet was picked up by René Schmid Architekten. The task: To design apartments which are aesthetically pleasing, comfortable and super energy-efficient. The biggest construction challenge is the unbalanced ratio of energy usage to energy production in summer and winter.
To maximize the collection of solar energy, the most efficient solar panels are utilized to line the entire facade of the building. The building itself is essentially a power plant. Energy consumption is kept to the minimum with the use of LED lights and A+++ household appliances.
Renowned engineering company, Basler & Hofmann, reckons that an hour of sunlight would be sufficient to provide for a whole day's energy needs.
Averaging eight hours of sunlight in summer, the excess energy can be stored in batteries for short term use of three to four days. Alternatively, the photovoltaic energy can be converted into hydrogen for long-term storage up to 25 days. The latter is often necessary in December and January to bridge the low sunlight gap.
The building will have a built-in information system helping the residents optimize their energy usage of warm water, lighting and heating, PC's and other electrical devices.
The architecture is a symbiosis of design and technique. The zero waste house is not only technically efficient, but also beautifully designed with warm wood colors and rooms that let in a lot of sunlight.
For energy saving transportation, two motor vehicles will be available for the tenants to use: An electrical car powered by the building's photovoltaic equipment, plus one running on bio fuel. Biological waste from the residents is transferred to a special bio fuel converter.
Pioneers of the Future
This building concept is based upon the principles of “collect, accumulate, save and conscientious energy usage” without any loss of comfort, totally in line with the ecological Zeitgeist. The official building dedication ceremony will be held in April/May 2016 and the first tenants will be moving in a month later.
Although no advertising has been made, there have been already 100 potential rental inquiries. Of the nine apartments, (7 x 4.5, 1 x 3.5, 1 x 2.5 room flats), one will be a show-flat, five will be rented in the conventional fashion and three will be tenanted over a casting process promoted on Blick.ch.
The jury is comprised of representatives from Energie Schweiz, Real Estate AG and the Umwelt Arena, among others. They will select the three lucky tenants based on criteria like energy saving and environmental consciousness, experimental friendliness, curiosity and communicativeness. A chosen family will be closely followed by the media during their first year of tenancy.
The first energy self-sufficient house in the world comes at a reasonable price. A 4.5 room apartment will be renting at around CHF 2500, which includes energy usage based on a bonus system. This will force the tenants to rethink their lifestyles as they will only have as much energy as the building is able to produce and store. However, these tenants are reducing their energy footprints to almost zero and helping develop a sustainable environment. They will be the pioneers of the houses of the future.
Visit Umwelt Arena in Spreitenbach or peek at the webcam allowing viewers to follow the construction developments live.
The Umwelt Arena has a new exhibition on this project, including a 3D model of the building and information on the construction techniques, challenges and solutions.
(Photographs and visualisations copyright Evangeline de Macedo, René Schmid Architekten AG)