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Minergie – the building standard for the homes of tomorrow

Minergie family home in Villarlod (in new window)

This family home in Villarlod is designed to derive maximum power from the sun and ensure a comfortable ambient temperature all year round.© Kaspar Architectes www.kha.ch

Brunnenhof housing development in Zurich (in new window)

The Brunnenhof housing development in Zurich was built according Minerge-ECO standards. For example, it was constructed from building materials that cause little environmental pollution.© Minergie

Minergie office block in St.Gallen (in new window)

Headquarters of a major insurance company in St. Gallen. This Minergie-certified building was designed by the renowned architects from Basel, Herzog and De Meuron, and is physical proof that ecological efficiency and cutting-edge architectural design are not necessarily mutually exclusive.© Minergie

On a cold January morning in the tiny village of Villarlod (canton of Fribourg), the mercury dips to a bone-chilling -6°C. Yet, in a seemingly normal family home overlooking the village, the temperature is a cosy 19°C. What makes this property so special is not only its original contemporary design but also the fact that it is able to maintain a comfortable room temperature all year round without the need for a conventional heating or air-conditioning system. Built using high-performance insulation and glass, the house derives all its energy needs from solar power and from the heat emitted by its residents and the appliances they use.

Another place, another level. The Brunnenhof housing development in the city of Zurich consists of 72 apartments designed specifically with large families in mind. In 2007, it underwent a complete refurbishment. Underneath the bright and cheerful façade, it hides a secret – 20-cm thick insulation that saves considerable energy by keeping the heat firmly locked in. It is also connected to an environmentally-friendly district heating network that recovers the heat generated by a local household waste incinerator.

These are only two examples of the 15,000 properties in Switzerland that are Minergie®-certified. Launched a little over 10 years ago, the label is awarded to buildings which have been constructed or refurbished in line with energy-saving and ecological standards.

Up to 60% savings

In Switzerland, the environmental impact of the housing sector is not inconsiderable. Given that more than one third of Swiss energy consumption is used to heat buildings and water, the energy-saving potential of this sector is huge.

Compared to a conventional building, a Minergie-certified building can cut energy costs by up to 60%. The standard does not stipulate the use of any specific material or technology. All that it demands is reinforced insulation to prevent any heat loss during the winter, coupled with a high-performance ventilation system that maintains a refreshing ambient temperature during the warm summer months. When it comes to heating, Minergie recommends the installation of systems that rely primarily on renewable energies, such as heat pumps, wood-pellet burning systems and district heating.

Growing popularity

Admittedly, it is slightly more expensive to build a property according to Minergie standards (between 10 and 15% more). However, this has not put off property owners, keen to make sound yet green investments. Since the standard was launched in 1998, more than 15,000 buildings of have been awarded the Minergie quality label in Switzerland alone. Minergie is an independent association which oversees compliance with heating norms and is responsible for awarding the certificate.

At the present time, almost 13% of new builds and 2% of refurbished properties meet Minergie standards, and the numbers are growing. In light of rising energy costs, it would be fair to assume that the future looks bright for innovative and sustainable building technologies in Switzerland.

The Minergie standard is by no means limited to residential property. Other buildings that have received the Minergie label include office blocks, schools and even shopping centres.

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