Enabler & Example


Sustainable solutions based on conviction

Published: 11. March 2024

Valentin Stahel Und Andreas Kalberer Valentin Stahel Und Andreas Kalberer Valentin Stahel Und Andreas Kalberer Valentin Stahel Und Andreas Kalberer

HIAG wants to be a role model in the area of sustainability. Achieving this goal requires a wealth of ideas, and the courage to break new ground. Andreas Kalberer, Sustainability Project Manager, and Valentin Stahel, Energy and Sustainability Project Developer, are shaping the company’s sustainable future.

Today, no company can ignore the issue of sustainability, and this also applies to HIAG. In recent years, the entire business model has been geared even more consistently towards sustainable value creation. But in which segments is the topic particularly central? And how can sustainability be successfully integrated into the company’s processes? Answering these questions is one of the main tasks of Andreas Kalberer, Sustainability Project Manager at HIAG. “HIAG’s business is divided into three segments: Site Development, Portfolio/Asset Management and Transactions. The long-term course is set by the company’s construction activities, because this has a particularly strong negative environmental impact,” he said. “As a company that operates in the field of project development, this is something that we want to focus on.” The task was therefore to define as clearly and comprehensibly as possible what sustainable construction means for HIAG.

Manifesto with a broad impact

The Sustainable Building Manifesto, which was created in 2022, takes this task into account. The manifesto sets out the core elements of sustainable construction from HIAG’s perspective in order to achieve a common understanding of the topic among investors, tenants and the public, but also internally at HIAG. The manifesto was preceded by extensive preparatory work. “We held workshops with the project developers to identify the issues that are crucial in sustainable construction.” Six topics were identified as a result of this process.

HIAG sites must:

1. be resilient to the impacts of climate change
2. have optimal accessibility and strengthen sustainable mobility concepts
3. offer a high quality of stay and safety
4. create an energy-efficient and low-emission infrastructure
5. offer high flexibility of use
6. take social needs into account

These six topics are defined in more detail in the manifesto.

From theory to practice
The development of the principles was only an intermediate step. Now, the defined requirements have to be put into practice. “We realised that we had to continue helping the developers interpret and implement the requirements. After all, this manifesto shouldn’t just be a theoretical document that disappears into a drawer,” Andreas said. “That’s why we developed a catalogue of criteria that offers them support in every phase of planning and construction in order to fulfil the six points of the manifesto.” The resulting document provides a framework that supports development from strategic orientation through to conceptualisation and implementation. The catalogue of criteria addresses topics such as the assessment of physical environmental risks, mobility requirements, safety and infrastructure. Questions must be answered, such as: Which parts of a site can still be used? What needs to be dismantled? And what effect will this have on greenhouse gas emissions? The catalogue of criteria provides developers with important support for their daily work.
Andreas Kalberer

“The long-term course is set by the company’s construction activities, because this has a particularly strong negative environmental impact. As a company that operates in the field of project development, this is something that we want to focus on.” Andreas Kalberer, Sustainability Project Manager

Certification as a seal of quality for sustainable construction
New construction projects are usually certified. The Minergie and SNBS (Swiss Sustainable Building Standard) certificates are typically used. As the majority of HIAG’s portfolio consists of commercial sites, the Minergie label is particularly important at present. SNBS is a certificate that is primarily used for residential developments. “Both are Swiss labels that meet our requirements for sustainable buildings and are recognised by tenants.”

Sustainable based on conviction
However, the manifesto is not a revolutionary innovation in terms of the site developer’s strategy, as Valentin Stahel, Project Developer Energy and Sustainability at HIAG, was keen to emphasise. The reason for this is positive. “Some of the points set out in this document have already been implemented at all of our sites for years.” Nevertheless, the manifesto marks a milestone. “With the manifesto, we have set a kind of standard for our more than 40 sites.” For example, smart and renewable energy, mobility and biodiversity concepts are now being developed for each site. These concepts represent great added value, not least when communicating with stakeholders. However, the biggest plus point is that the implementation of the sustainability goals can be tackled in a consolidated manner. Valentin Stahel stressed that: “We do this because we stand by it, because we believe it makes sense, and because we want to increase value.”

Valentin Stahel

“Our goal is a 100% CO₂-neutral energy supply for our site developments.” Valentin Stahel, Project Developer Energy and Sustainability

Worthwhile investments
Sustainable objectives always include good economic efficiency. This is particularly the case with site energy concepts, as the project developer knows: “As a rule, it makes neither economic nor ecological sense for each building to develop its own energy supply separately.” The pioneering energy concepts create added value for tenants and owners, but also make a substantial contribution to reducing CO2 emissions. This is an effect that is also demanded and appreciated by the communities in which the sites are located. There is an energy concept for each site in accordance with the manifesto. There are usually several options for implementing the energy concepts, which address the following questions: Is each building supplied separately? Does the site as a whole have a separate energy supply? Or is it possible to supply the site together with neighbouring buildings, or even the entire community, by means of network/district heating? “We strive for the optimum solution,” Valentin said. “The concept must show which solution is best for the site in terms of sustainability and comfort – such as cooling in summer – as well as from an economic perspective.”

Partnerships with added value
A 50:50 concept was implemented at the CHAMA site in Cham, Canton of Zug. This means that 50% of the heat is generated on site using heat pumps and geothermal probes, while the other 50% comes from district heating from the waste incineration plant of Zug energy supplier WWZ AG. “From an economic point of view, this is about as expensive as if we had connected 100% to district heating from WWZ,” Valentin said. “The big advantage, however, is that we are not only able to heat the flats with the geothermal probes, but also cool them in summer. This is a significant advantage that makes sense given the increasingly warmer summer months, and it is also environmentally friendly because it regenerates geothermal probes.” The concept also points the way for other sites. On the Reichhold campus, for example, the development of a site network is being driven forward. As a large industrial estate with a lot of waste heat, for example from cooling logistics or data centres, is to be built here, the waste heat generated can be used to supply the site. And that’s not all: “We are already in negotiations with the local district heating operators to see whether they would like to use some of the waste heat generated on the site for a district heating supply.”

Important security of supply
Working with external district heating operators also offers HIAG security. “Around 95% of these providers are publicly owned,” Valentin said. The partners benefit from their mandate to ensure security of supply. “All energy concepts on the HIAG sites have what is known as a fallback scenario.” If there were to be problems with the supply of energy from sustainable sources, major customers such as HIAG have a certain say when it comes to alternatives. This is an important point, as HIAG has defined a reduction pathway to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in its yielding portfolio. The planning of measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is one of Valentin Stahel’s tasks. “Our goal is a 100% CO₂-neutral energy supply for our sites.” On the way there, ecology and economic efficiency are combined at all locations in order to optimise supply.

Into the future with sustainability
Sustainable solutions benefit everyone involved, at all levels. Many partners are involved in site developments, including the communes, the authorities, and the many companies involved in construction. The key to success lies in a forward-looking strategy with appropriate planning, as well as constructive communication. “That’s why the manifesto is so important,” Valentin said. “This means that all important factors are taken into account in the early stages of development. Once planning permission has been granted, there are limited options for major adjustments.” And the attractiveness of the sites is also significantly influenced, Andreas added. “Sustainably developed sites are competitive, and benefit everyone involved. At HIAG, we develop all of our sites with this in mind.”

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