Energy efficiency of residential buildings on the rise, but at a slower rate

17-year collection of data outlines trends in the building stock

Hausfassade mit BaugerüstClick to enlarge
Heating in older buildings is nearly as efficient as in new buildings after comprehensive renovation
Source: Westpic / Fotolia

Although housing in Germany is becoming more energy efficient, the upward trend has nearly flattened out. These are the findings of a new research project by the German Environment Agency (UBA) which evaluated data collected nationwide on energy consumption and the status of modernisation of residential buildings between 2002 and the present. "Renovations in old building stock and new building standards have proven effective, and the resulting lower levels of energy consumption are helping to protect the climate," says UBA's President Maria Krautzberger. The energy efficiency of the building stock rose steadily until around 2012 but – unlike in multi-family houses – it has hardly improved in single-family houses since then. Ms Krautzberger says: "Policy-makers must move quickly to set the right incentives for single-family house owners in particular so that the buildings sector can achieve the energy and climate goals for 2030 and 2050. To achieve these goals we need a balanced mix of instruments such as regulatory law, grant funding and information.”

Lighting, air conditioning and heating in particular: these three factors in Germany's building stock account for about 35 percent of total final energy consumption – and 30 percent of Germany's overall greenhouse gas emissions. This makes the sector a significant player in achieving Germany's climate goals. The aim is to reduce the demand for heating in buildings by 20 percent in the period 2008-2020. By 2030, CO2 emissions are to be reduced by 40 percent compared to 2014. A further aim is climate neutrality in the building stock by 2050.

The research report affirms the effectiveness of energy upgrades. After comprehensive upgrades take place in old housing stock these buildings can be heated with nearly the same efficiency as new developments. However, there are new developments and refurbished old housing with high levels of energy consumption, as the wide discrepancies in energy consumption within these groups reflect. User behaviour is of course also a factor. The data also shows how much more efficient a renovation and new developments can be when good standards are implemented and buildings are subsequently operated in an efficient way (see graphics below).

To ensure that the climate goals for the buildings sector are achieved, UBA is recommending a package of measures, including energy requirements for new developments and refurbishments which comply with the state-of-the-art: KfW 40 and KfW 55 efficiency standard standard, respectively. Additional other instruments must be implemented to ensure economic efficiency and social sustainability. A broad range of information – including individualized refurbishment planning, transparent heating bills and advisory services networks – can round off the mix of instruments.

About the project

The present project [Empirische Wohngebäudedaten] makes the data stock of the co2online GmbH company accessible to the public for the first time. The data stock now has about one million anonymised data sets, gathered from user entries in the Energiesparchecks offered by co2online. The data was reviewed and evaluated with the help of an advisory council.

About the data

The indicators used to determine the energy efficiency of residential buildings are heating energy consumption for room heating and warm water heating, relative to floor space and weather-adjusted. The special feature of the data is that it links measured heat energy consumption with detailed information about the properties of the buildings. This method enables a description and evaluation of energy consumption and the status of modernisation of the building stock in Germany from 2002 to the present, for the country as a whole and for individual federal states.

Umweltbundesamt Hauptsitz

Wörlitzer Platz 1
06844 Dessau-Roßlau

Grafiken: Heizenergieverbrauch in Deutschland

  1. Entwicklung des Heizenergieverbrauchs von Wohngebäuden
  2. Heizenergieverbrauch alter und neuer Wohngebäude
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