CO2 neutrality  is not enough.  We need  completely CO2- free buildings.“

Baumeister (Master Builder) Ing. Herbert Hetzel, founder and CEO of Beyond Carbon Energy, on the belated rethinking in the real estate industry - and what we really have to do now for climate protection.

Mr Hetzel, where do you see the greatest leverage for climate protection in the real estate industry?

The heating and cooling of real estate is responsible for about 40 percent of CO2 emissions worldwide – so that's where the leverage is. But only if we stop thinking in terms CO2 neutrality. Neutral means, among other things, heating with pellets or biogas, for example. In terms of the overall balance, only as much is actually emitted as was previously drawn from the air by photosynthesis. Nevertheless, it is still being emitted. Limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees has in fact already failed, so at the moment we have to fight against every tenth of a degree more. Consequently, we will have to think and act in a new category. And that is to heat and to cool CO2 free, because this is where significant success in saving greenhouse gases can be achieved without customers having to suffer a loss of comfort.

And what is the best way to achieve CO2-free heating and cooling?

We solve the problem with a seasonal energy storage system. The energy that stems from excess heat arising in the summer in the course of cooling the building is made available in the winter season as thermal energy for indoor heating and for hot water. This system is supported by suitable heat pumps and ideally by the generation of green electricity on the property itself, i.e. by photovoltaics or small wind turbines. 

In terms of economic efficiency, it is vital that the energy is not more expensive than what is sourced on the classic, traditional energy market. After all, I was a developer myself for decades and I am well aware that there must be no economic disadvantages involved if such systems are to spread rapidly. Today, with Beyond Carbon Energy, I am offering such a system as an energy provider for new and existing properties and it is evident that demand is growing - we currently have one new property a week on the table. Naturally, this is far from enough in terms of climate protection. Therefore we invite interested companies to also implement this business case.

Roofs or open spaces – what are the best locations for photovoltaics?

Personally, I favour the open spaces on the property. Take parking spaces, or example, that can be built over with solar panels. The parking spaces benefit from cooling shade and you can also charge e-cars directly at the same location where the electricity is generated. Pitched roofs on residential buildings, are usually suitable as well. When used on flat roofs, as often found on commercial properties, the half-lives of PV systems and roof construction must be brought into line to avoid economic damage in the future. In many cases, these areas are not as ideal as is commonly assumed due to the various roof installations and superstructures. 

The entire real estate sector is talking about climate change. Concrete action, however, is only taking place gradually. What are the reasons?

In the past, the real estate industry put little focus on energy supply. The associated costs were too low compared to the total investment costs and the type of energy supply had no influence on real estate value. The energy consumption costs of home buyers and tenants were also inconspicuous. This perspective has now changed within a very short span of time. Energy supply systems supported by fossil fuels have not only become expensive for customers, but also burden the value of the property and make the financing of properties more expensive. In addition, there are the discussions about supply security. As these systems are not trivial, however, and entail a certain degree of complexity, it takes some time for these findings to spread in the real estate market and for real estate developers, portfolio holders, home buyers and tenants alike to familiarise themselves with the new situation and its repercussions.

In any case, in terms of sustainable development of property value in the future, the CO2 emissions of the property and the security of energy supply have become vital factors. Developers like 6B47 recognised this at a very early stage and we are delighted to be able to support a number of 6B47's projects with our energy supply system. We assume that gradually many owners and developers will follow a similar course in order to avoid disadvantages in project financing, leasing and also in transactions. 

Thank you very much. 

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