Difficult to calculate but very important: Embodied energy

There is a part of our energy consumption that we could not calculate and com­pare to a German reference family: embodied energy. This means energy that is needed for the production of goods that we use, for instance, for the installation of our house. A modern low-energy house consumes about one third of its life­cycle energy need during the construction phase alone. This energy is needed for producing the construction materials and for the construction itself. There are two ways of minimizing this energy: first, reducing the effective living space per person and, second, proper choice of construction materials.

The WOGENO cooperative has set limits on the apartment area per person and balances this by providing a number of collective facilities in its houses. This comprises normally a community room for gatherings, a guest apartment and one or more community rooms in the cellar. In our house, the community rooms include two workshops in the basement floor, one for wood and metal working and painting, another one for tailoring and finer works, as well as a play room for children. In addition to that, we have set up community facilities such as sheds for bicycles and gardening, a common playground between both houses, next to our community room and the terrace in front of it, and the ma­jor part of the garden is communal, including vegetable patches that are dis­tributed to those inhabitants who want to grow vegetables.

The effect of the community facilities is that the effective living area per person is reduced. This has two consequences for the energy need: first, the area to be heated is reduced, thus reducing the heat energy demand, and second, the embodied energy in the building is reduced!

The second way of reducing embodied energy in buildings, the choice of construction materials with low energy embodiment, was only partially followed in the case of our house. Energy saving steps included limiting the use of bricks (450kWh/m3 embodied energy) and concrete (250kWh/m3) and making much use of wood (5kWh/m3).

Closely related to the community facilities is the sharing of goods or serv­ices that are not constantly needed and hence can easily be shared – provided that people take care of community property, a prerequisite that requires a well-func­tioning house community. Sharing of goods saves production energy for these goods.

We save the major part of embodied energy by our limited use of cars: STAT – TAUTO Munchen keeps only 20 cars per member, thus cutting down the pro­duction energy for cars by a larger factor (not exactly 20, because the cars are run only for about a year, before being resold). The production of cars, and also of parking lots, streets, etc., consumes a lot of energy and we cut down this pro­duction energy – in exactly the same way as most of our neighbours do!

A further area where we save embodied energy is food. Almost all our food comes from ecological production and most of is comes out of the region of Munich. Further, we consume little meat, though we are not entirely vegetarian. Hence, we get positive indicators for all factors that play a role in the energy consumption of food production: eco-agriculture saves energy embodied in mineral fertilizers and plant protection chemicals; regional food sources saves transport energy; a low level of meat consumption saves energy because feeding plants to animals before using animal products for human nutrition multiplies the energy requirement; and seasonally grown food in open fields needs less energy than food grown in glass houses. As a result, our embodied energy consumption for food is far lower than the German average – as it is for most of our neighbours who have similar consumption patterns.

The cooperation and networks that allow us to achieve these positive indicators are among others: Tagwerk GmbH, a company for the regional marketing of eco-food delivered weekly to the households, UNSER LAND, a regional food marketing network and company for agricultural products from the region, selling mainly eco-food, and a local eco-food shop.

Finally: Quality of life!

Well, finally, I do not want to say in words that living with 100 per cent renewable energy goes hand in hand with a high quality of life. Instead I will let the pictures of life in our house and in our city quarter speak for themselves!

Websites

Building cooperative WOGENO: www. wogeno. de City quarter Messestadt Riem: www. messestadt-riem. de Pictures of Messestadt Riem: www. endres-bildung. de 100 per cent renewable electricity: www. naturstrom. ag Our windpark: www. windpark-saar. de Solares Kirchenzentrum Messestadt Riem – SOLKIZ GbR: www. sankt-florian. org

Geothermal heat in Messestadt Riem: www. swm. de Car sharing: www. stattauto-muenchen. de

Organic food from the area: www. unserland. info and www. tagwerk. net German Climate Protection Campaign: www. c02online. de

Difficult to calculate but very important: Embodied energy

Figure 16.8Atypical scene in the Messestadt Riem:The ‘Promenadenfest’ (promenade festival) where everybody contributes to the buffet and everything is shared

Source: Michael Stohr

Difficult to calculate but very important: Embodied energy

Figure 16.9 A child’s birthday party in our community room

Difficult to calculate but very important: Embodied energy

Figure 16.10 The terrace and play ground extend the community room outdoors: Here, many gatherings and parties take place

Source: Michael Stohr

Difficult to calculate but very important: Embodied energy

Figure 16.11 The annual cooking party in the community room of our house has become a tradition: Each participant prepares a part of the menu and all taste it together

Difficult to calculate but very important: Embodied energy

Figure 16.12 Another party on top of the roof of our house: Despite the PV installation, there is enough space left to gather

 

Source: Helga Ratze-Scheffer

 

Figure 16.13 Cooking with the sun: Barbara Fredmuller prepares food with her solar cooker

 

Difficult to calculate but very important: Embodied energy