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Change and transformation for a worthwhile future

profile conducted a very open and personal interview with Annette von Hagel about sustainable building, the role of the EU, the government and the Federal States in setting an example, values and value retention in architecture, energy efficiency, renovation and conversion. For Annette von Hagel, it is always about people, quality of life, and a positive future for everyone.

Annette von Hagel studied architecture at TU Darmstadt (Technical University of Damrstadt). Between 1985 and 1990, she worked as an IT consultant and trainer (mechanical engineering) in Wiesbaden. From 1990, she worked as an architect and IT manager in Frankfurt am Main and Berlin, and from 1995 she was a freelance architect and consultant in the field of Facility Management in Darmstadt, Munich and Basel. In 2003, she transferred to the public sector. Since 1998, she has taught Facility Management at various universities in Austria and Germany.
She has been involved in the field of Facility Management since 1990 and Sustainable Building since 2003 in the following ways: as a spokesperson for the advisory board of the DENEFF (German business initiative for energy efficiency), on the committee of the annual Facility Management Conference in Frankfurt am Main, on the board of examiners for the Hannover Chamber of Engineers of Facility Management experts, on the steering committee for the LED lead market initiative of the German Environment Ministry, and as a consultant for the sustainable building commission of the German Federal Environment Agency.

Ms von Hagel, in your opinion, how should the energy revolution be implemented politically? What impact will this have on the construction industry?
It is possible to bring about an energy revolution, of that I am certain. However, wanting to provoke an energy revolution without taking energy efficiency into account will lead to problems. Maximum energy efficiency must first be ensured, and when this has been achieved in all areas – including, of course, the property and construction sector – we will have a chance to address the other challenges. I am convinced that the construction industry will benefit from this. The new requirements will trigger an increase in innovation. Building is inherently something tremendously static. In a figurative sense, we must not allow concrete to penetrate our minds. It is important to be flexible and able to adapt in order to deal with the issues of the future. If we all do our bit and reduce energy consumption together, then we can definitely bring about the energy revolution.

An important step on the way to the energy revolution is the energy-efficient renovation of buildings. The 2011 EU energy efficiency plan stipulates the mandatory target of modernising 3% of existing public buildings per year. At the moment, the rate of renovation is approximately 0.9%. What stance do the public authorities take on this?
The renovation rate of three percent is a political decision. It has been made and must now be implemented. There is already a renovation roadmap, which has been developed by the German Energy Agency, the Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Development, and the German Institute for Federal Real Estate (BImA). The challenge now lies in the implementation. If we renovate three percent of existing buildings every year, we will have achieved a lot in a few years. The scope is tremendous. Personally, I consider the use of figures like this to be essential. A difficult, overarching aim has been defined and, in doing this, it shows what we are trying to do now. Whether, in the end, the result is 3% or 2.8% is not the point. It is about the political statement that is bound up with this aim. No one can stand in the way of the aim itself being achieved any longer.

The aim of the modernisation measures is also for the properties and cityscapes to retain their value...
This naturally also applies to Federal real estate. The BImA is entrusted with managing the transferred properties and maintaining their value in the long-term. Ultimately, retaining the value of existing buildings is a fundamental task. Value retention also involves satisfying the requirements of sustainable building. It equally includes the key issue of building culture or even building as art, as well as listed building status. To ensure that properties retain their value, it is also important to constantly monitor whether the original design is still relevant today. One has to question what functions the building was originally being constructed to fulfil and whether the basic premises of the design are still applicable for its use today. Federal real estate is often conversion real estate, i.e. former military grounds. On the one hand, these grounds are now being converted and must be utilised for new functions. On the other hand, the conditions under which the designs were originally drawn up must also be taken into account. In the post-war years, when many of these premises were designed, there was a spirit of optimism all around. People did things, without really thinking too much. And we have to build on this... Even if, thank goodness, we have a different starting point today, the spirit of optimism is similar. The ratio of what is being demanded to what is achievable is vast. The demands are high – for the whole of Europe too!

The evaluation and certification of buildings in accordance with energy standards is an important instrument in the valuation of property today. What role does adherence to energy standards play?
It is important that energy standards exist, like those prescribed by the German energy saving regulations (EnEV). It is right that buildings are issued with an energy passport. The public display of this data gives people a different perspective. The quality of buildings becomes measurable and comparable. Certificates for sustainable building go one step further. Here, not only the energy necessary for running the building is considered, but the complete building lifecycle is also taken into account. Even if no certification is carried out for a building, the benchmarks and guideline values can be used as a comparison for individual areas. This is a huge increase in value. Never before has there been an opportunity for comparison like this. Highly complex processes are now underpinned by scientific research. This includes the scientific basis of sustainable building, the evaluation and the methods of representation, right through to the documentation and BIM.

In addition to the ecological aspects, cultural, social and economical fields are also part of sustainable building. What values do you consider to be relevant?
The aim of sustainable building has been defined. Of course, a few re-adjustments will need to be made. Some fine-tuning and experience is required. We started with newbuilds and are now preparing to gradually move into other sub-sectors. It is important that sustainable building is anchored into the minds of architects, clients and users. This topic must become a fixed feature of architecture and structural engineering courses. When I was studying architecture, the focus was on design, beauty and aesthetics. Of course, a building must be beautiful! But now, ecological, economical, cultural and social aspects must also be considered. That is sustainability. Particularly in towns, it is essential to have good urban planning with a corresponding infrastructure that organises everything to be close together. This will reduce traffic, limit noise and increase the quality of life. We live in a society based on knowledge, where the population is becoming more and more qualified. The demands placed on quality of life and standards are increasing. The majority of these highly-qualified people want to live in a neighbourhood where there is a good atmosphere, attractive buildings, a market, museums, childcare facilities, schools and suitable leisure activities. A fundamental requirement is to keep crime at bay. All of this can only be achieved if the social system works. The structure of a town is highly complex. This complexity is an important part of what needs to be protected. It is how quality of life is created for the population. And that is something very valuable that must not be forgotten when all the discussions are taking place.

According to forecasts, in the not-too-distant future there will only be three booming metropolitan regions in Germany and the infrastructure in the provinces will wither away...
Yes. However, that is not purely a disadvantage. Large natural areas will also be able to be released. There are even changes in the models. We cannot artificially maintain the current system forever. I know that many people will be in uproar over such hypotheses. These cycles of urban and rural migration are happening now. There is no point in denying reality.

Which values are of particular importance to you personally?
The social balance is of particular importance to me personally. For me, it is extremely important that the social gap does not widen any further. That would be a catastrophe for the quality of life in towns. I am no social romantic. People should not just ask what their country can do for them, but what they can do for their country. That might be a cliché, but it is still true. A society cannot just give up, everyone has to make a contribution. But we must not try to find a uniform solution to the problems for the entire population, we must involve each individual person. We must offer each individual a better quality of life. Everyone must be part of society and count themselves as part of it. Then we will have gained something!