Sustainable Construction and Refurbishment
Our new construction activities are helping us to create urgently needed new and affordable homes, especially in metropolitan areas. In our new construction and refurbishment projects, we take care to ensure optimized energy design, the use of renewable energies and environmentally-aware construction methods that conserve resources. In this context, it is also of particular significance that the layouts of our buildings and developments are suitable for a wide variety of lifestyles, in addition to providing accessible homes.
A key aspect of our work in new construction and conversions is an integrated neighborhood ideal, where we pool planning skills and construction measures. For example, we create additional homes through vertical expansion and densification, thus minimizing unnecessary sealing.
Our Building Information Management (BIM) strategy, which allows us to identify effective measures on the basis of data from across the entire life cycle of our neighborhoods, plays a central role. This reflects our commitment to long-term sustainability, which takes a close look at every stage of a building’s life – from finding plots of land through to handing over the keys and demolition – in order to minimize its emissions, the impact it has on the environment and the amount of resources that it consumes.
In its new construction and refurbishment projects, Vonovia takes care to ensure optimized energy design and the use of renewable energies. We achieve this, for instance, by using the German efficiency house standard or the new-build criteria of the Austrian “klimaaktiv Pakt” initiative. The average primary energy demand of newly constructed buildings, in relation to rental area, is the most important non-financial performance indicator in development. This performance indicator is part of the Sustainability Performance Index (SPI) and planning process and must be made transparent as part of all Management Board approvals of new-build and development projects.
The development business operating under the BUWOG brand is active in both the development of high-quality residential neighborhoods for the company’s own portfolio (to hold) and for direct sale (to sell) in Germany and Austria, and the densification of buildings as part of the development of existing neighborhoods in Germany. The activities of the BUWOG development business in Germany and Austria are the responsibility of the Chief Development Officer (CDO), and the individual development projects are approved by the Management Board.
The integration of the new construction division of Vonovia Technische Service GmbH (VTS) into BUWOG Germany was fully implemented in the reporting year. Due to the continued expansion of BUWOG, we have separated our construction activities into the two BUWOG regional areas South-West and North-East with a regional manager for each. The purpose is to strengthen the future performance of the development business, while also boosting the local presence.
Objectives and Measures
We completed 3,749 new residential units in 2022, of which 2,071 were for our own portfolio (to hold) and 1,678 for sale (to sell).
Due to the rise in the cost of capital and construction, we will not be launching any new projects in 2023. The projects already under construction will be completed, as will those in planning. The latter will be prepared for a later construction start. We have set a target of completing approx. 3,450 new units in 2023. A total of around 10,000 units are currently under construction. The full potential (to hold and to sell) is considerably higher and consists of approx. 60,000 units.
In the reporting year, the average primary energy demand for new construction amounted to 37.7 kWh/m2 per year. It was thus lower than that of the previous year (38.6 kWh/m2 per year) and below the target for 2022, for which we had assumed a significantly higher value compared to 2021. This can be explained in particular by the early completion of a relatively large project with a low primary energy demand. We again expect to see a significantly lower primary energy demand in 2023 compared to 2022. By 2025, the primary energy demand should average approximately 27 kWh/m2 per year.
The continual improvements in the energy performance of our new constructions is achieved in two ways: Firstly, through the combination of a high standard of insulation and mainly being supplied by district heating with a low primary energy factor. Secondly, through increased use of air-to-water heat pumps combined with photovoltaic plants. These two approaches allow us to ensure that more than 55% of the heating and warm water supply comes from renewable energy sources in some projects. In Austria we are already implementing the requirement for 2023 of not having natural gas heating in new construction projects today through our participation in “klimaaktiv Pakt 2030.”
Wherever possible, Vonovia strives to revitalize existing real estate and urban usable areas, thus reusing already sealed or urbanized space and revitalizing it rather than creating new building grounds. Examples of this are the Main Au neighborhood in Hanau and the Wohnwerk in Niederschönweide, Berlin. Abandoned industrial areas are being developed into modern residential neighborhoods that also include new green spaces and biotopes. In the Münsterberger Weg project in Berlin, around two-thirds of the previously sealed area is set to be unsealed over the course of the development.
In the reporting year, resource-saving and eco-friendly construction and analysis of the entire life cycle came more to the fore. As part of our “Perspectives on the Future of Construction” (in German) dialog process, we discussed the necessary framework conditions for climate-neutral construction with representatives of the scientific community, building materials manufacturers, planners and the construction industry. We presented the results at our final conference in November (see Vonovia Leads the Way to Sustainable Construction) and discussed them with representatives from the world of politics. Vonovia has committed to a series of measures that will be transferred into specific implementation plans in 2023.
Taking the entire building life cycle into consideration during the planning and assessment of our sustainability performance is a particular priority. We intend to significantly reduce the carbon footprint of our buildings and also use more sustainable and renewable raw materials, both in new construction and in modernizations.
The strategic cooperation with GROPYUS AG, announced in the reporting year, will contribute to this. Their platform-based solution for modular and prefabricated wood-hybrid construction combines saving resources with affordability. This will lead to an increase in the recyclability of constructions and building projects. We intend to promote this by introducing a key figure for recyclability and the gradual introduction of material passes for new buildings.
We will continue and expand our cooperation with our suppliers and planners, construction companies and construction material manufacturers. We intend to request sustainability data for products and take these into consideration in our tendering and awarding processes. We also want to promote innovation through competition and pilot projects in order to move from ideas to real implementation.
The dialogue process shows that policymakers in particular need to adapt the framework conditions. We are therefore calling for the harmonization and simplification of regulations, the acceleration of approval procedures for sustainable materials, higher subsidy rates for using sustainable building materials, the strengthening of centralized collection and return systems, and mandatory deconstruction concepts for new buildings.
As part of a digitalization project, we have decided to merge the skills already developed in our German and Austrian construction units and unite the synergies of both countries in terms of the building information modeling (BIM) method. The cooperation between the two countries will promote mutual learning and lead to developments being used multiple times. Based on this decision, we have set ourselves the target of creating a uniform BIM strategy for the Group. This will connect skills and the direction of the method managed centrally in a targeted manner.
Designing the residential environment and preserving biodiversity are top priorities for us. Many of our buildings feature green spaces that serve as natural habitats for flora and fauna at ground level, but also on roofs or on facades. One green facade project implemented in the reporting year is the redesign of the former BUWOG customer and administration center at Hietzinger Kai in Vienna (see Green Facades at Hietzinger Kai, Vienna). In addition to the optical effects, these green spaces also offer a practical added value. They increase climate resilience, for example by slowing the flow of rainwater into the partially overburdened municipal sewage system and by making a positive contribution to the microclimate by preventing urban heat islands in built-up areas. Our residential environment service only creates parking lots with seepage paving for new construction projects. We also take care to conserve resources and protect the environment during construction (see Protecting Biodiversity).
Making sure that construction site management are aware of their responsibilities has a key role to play in ensuring that construction and refurbishment are done in a sustainable way. The German Occupational Safety and Health Act (ArbSchG) requires us to meet a high standard when it comes to protecting the health of our employees and promoting their well-being. This is strengthened by employer’s liability insurance associations and the German Employee Secondment Act. A security and health coordinator ensures that the requirements on construction sites are followed as closely as possible. Our general contractors and subcontractors are also subject to strict safety standards. These include measures like risk assessments and discussions, on-site safety inspections, rules about fencing, warning signs, protective clothing and safety equipment, in addition to an obligation to provide regular training for allemployees (see Promoting Health and Safety).
The German Waste Management Act (AWG) sets strict requirements for waste management. Mistakes like failing to sort waste properly carry the risk of significant financial penalties. In addition to the impact of our sustainability ambitions, this also represents an economic incentive: Using responsible waste management, we can keep costs low. That is why we include the cost of disposal in our tenders as standard in Germany and Austria.
To keep biodiversity intact in new constructions and conversions, we also implement programs to protect species that are under threat. We make sure to follow all of the relevant statutory requirements in this area and ensure that surveys are done at an early stage of the planning process for every refurbishment or construction project to determine whether the project poses a threat or an issue to any protected plant or animal species in the area.
We follow a strict statutory framework – which includes the German Federal Nature Conservation Act (BNatSchG) in Germany and the Federal Environmental Impact Assessment Act (UVP-G-200) in Austria – in addition to municipal building regulations and our internal planning guidelines (such as those related to protecting woodland areas and incorporating protected species into the planning process) in order to protect any species in the immediate vicinity of the construction site that may be under threat.
We commission all surveys required under biodiversity legislation whenever we buy new areas or plots of land for construction purposes. Whenever a survey uncovers a protected species, we implement a wide range of measures to ensure that this species is protected from the impact of any construction or refurbishment projects. We work closely together with the responsible authorities and professionals when implementing protection measures. Where necessary, we create replacement habitats by acquiring the necessary space for the planned compensatory planting or the resettlement of endangered animal populations.
Sustainable mobility concepts are another building block in our development activities. We promote sustainable mobility in our projects by creating numerous, low-threshold offers. One example of this is the completion of the Helio Tower in the urban development area “The Marks” in Vienna. It features a bicycle arcade that is the only one of its kind in Austria, with room for 2,000 bicycles across the site, of which 652 spots are for the Helio Tower. On average, we planned 1.8 bicycle parking spots for each newly constructed apartment. In addition, there is a car-sharing program with e-cars, city bikes and electric cargo bikes and up to 27 e-charging stations with intelligent load management just in BUWOG’s parking garage. On average, the new buildings constructed in the reporting year can be reached in around four minutes by foot from public transport (see Key Figures Development and New Construction).