Climate-neutral yet inexpensive living

Written by: Frank Rothbarth

A residential quarter consisting of new and energetically renovated buildings is being realized in Überlingen. The special feature: The quarter is located in a prime location on Lake Constance and is climate-neutral, yet the apartments are affordable even for the socially disadvantaged.

Urban planners and municipalities are facing major challenges: They are to provide affordable housing while also meeting the ambitious climate targets set by policymakers to supply residential buildings with climate-neutral heat and power supply by 2050 at the latest. In multi-story rental housing, this is quite a challenge. This is all the more true in metropolitan areas and sought-after residential locations, because lower-income people would also like to be able to afford housing there in the future.

How can residential quarters get by with virtually no fossil fuels through energy efficiency measures and the use of renewable energies? As part of the STADTQUARTIER 2050 lighthouse project, the German government is funding, among other things, a novel approach by the Überlingen building cooperative: It is investing there in a climate-neutral residential quarter with a socially responsible rental concept that could serve as a model for future residential projects in Germany and beyond.

The low energy consumption, as well as the gain in usable space, is thanks to efficient building insulation based on a high-performance polyurethane insulating material. © Covestro

Less energy consumption, more usable space

One prerequisite for this is an efficient high-performance insulating material from project partner puren gmbh, which is based on raw materials from Covestro and meets the top energy standard KfW 40 Plus. It not only reduces the apartments' energy consumption, but also creates space – in the truest sense of the word. Because of the high insulation performance, the insulation panels can be designed thinner. The results are a gain in usable space in the home and slimmer facade insulation, but also lower resource consumption in their manufacture. The boards are very durable and can also be recycled. Even during the installation of the panels, waste is collected right on site and sent for recycling. In addition to highly efficient and lean building insulation with low energy consumption, the Überlingen building cooperative also relies on an innovative local heating supply for the new and old buildings.

Optimizing energy consumption with mobile phones

In addition to the structural and technical measures, the residents themselves are also involved in the project. A real novelty here is the new quarter app developed by the Business Informatics Project Group of the Fraunhofer Institute for Information Technology. It is used to measure individual energy consumption in the apartments and provides tips on how residents can change their behavior to reduce their consumption and thus their operating costs. As if that were not enough, the app also offers a bonus system for energy-conscious behavior, up to and including the awarding of the current "polar bear" or "polar bearess" – standing for residents with minimum values for energy consumption in the neighborhood.

If a quarter concept proves successful, it is important to quickly transfer the results to projects. The STADTQUARTIER 2050 in Überlingen serves as a real laboratory in which, with the involvement of all relevant stakeholders, innovative concepts for the heat and energy transition can be researched and implemented simultaneously, but also quickly transferred to other communities.

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