'In terms of researching efficient building solutions and energy efficiency across all sectors, Austria has proved an early pioneer and model for many environmental initiatives'
Austria has one of the highest percentages of rental properties in Europe at 40% (80% in Vienna). Present initiatives in the Austrian housing market are focused on the promotion of sustainable buildings, including cost effectiveness, occupant acceptance, and faster market penetration. The market deployment of sustainable housing is supported both by research programmes and financial support from the Austrian federal and state governments. In terms of researching efficient building solutions and energy efficiency across all sectors, Austria has proved an early pioneer and model for many environmental initiatives.
From 1990-2006, overall household energy efficiency in Austria improved by 23%, in part due to the increasing number of homes with good insulation. In 1999, the government began the 'Building of Tomorrow' programme to support trend-setting research and development projects, and the implementation of exemplary pilot projects. This first phase ran from 2000-2005 and resulted in improved market awareness, technological innovation and cost surety. The number of Passivhaus homes rose to a market share of 4% in 2006 from almost zero in 2000. By 2007 there were 2,000 Passivhaus buildings in Austria. Due to the success of this program, the Austrian Research promotion Agency (FFG) launched the second phase of the programme in October 2008 titled 'Building of Tomorrow PLUS'. The goal is now to explore dwellings that generate energy in sufficient quantity to offset their CO2 emissions over their lifetime.
Hallein Residential Apartments
Located in a small town 15 km south of the provincial capital, Salzburg, Hallein was part of the pan-European CEPHEUS project. The scheme consists of 31 apartments, divided into 2 blocks orientated south-east and southwest.
All units have south-facing balconies, serving as solar shading, which are thermally broken from the external envelope. Access via stairs and external covered walkways are also thermally separated from the highly insulated dwellings. The reinforced concrete frame and floors provide thermal mass, and the external timber framed walls have a U-value of 0.11 W/m2K. Decentralised whole house ventilation with heat recovery is provided in each dwelling. Residual heating is not provided through the air supply as the client was unsure of market acceptance - a centralised wood pellet boiler provides heat through conventional heating instead. Warm water is provided by a centralised 2,000-litre buffer tank heated by a solar thermal system with top-up from the biomass boiler. Waste heat from a central domestic freezer room is also fed into this tank.
Heat Energy – 13.90 kWh/m²a, Heat load – 9.00 W/m²/year, Airtightness – 0.58 m3/hr/m2 at 50pa.
Austria's Kyoto Protocol commitment is to reduce GHG emissions by 13% by 2012 based on 1990 levels. As of 2007, emissions were 26% above target for the first commitment period. However, per capita emissions are low, due to the widespread use of hydropower and biomass energy.
By introducing Energy Efficient Housing Programmes, the government hopes to address the issue of rising GHG emissions in the domestic sector. The programme is led by the federal government's Environment Minister to provide funding to state governments for more sophisticated energy solutions, such as solar heating systems and zero-energy houses. Under this agreement, the federal government commits €2 billion annually to improve the thermal efficiency of new and existing homes.
Due to the distribution of responsibilities among the nine federal states in Austria (called Länder), there has never been one single building law in Austria, but at least nine different systems. The Austrian Institute of Construction Engineering (Österreichisches Institut für Bautechnik) is a private association founded by the nine Austrian states which helps with the coordination of construction legislation, standardisation and approvals.
IG Passivhaus Austria is the certified standard for new and existing low energy buildings. These houses have very high energy efficiency, use renewable energy sources, sustainable raw materials, and focus on user needs and services whilst remaining cost-effective in comparison to conventional building methods.
Besides the National Housing Promotion Act for sustainable housing, the states have policies for energy efficient design and offer specific financial support (up to 20% of the investment costs) for biomass, solar and heat pump systems to consumers, who can also claim rebates for purchasing energy-efficient appliances.
The Austrian Federal Law on Environmental Support, which is now 18 years old, is considered an international example of an efficient and effective funding instrument in the environmental sector. In some federal states, the investment in renewable energy technology is seen as a means of securing a future economy. There have been promotional and fiscal incentives for access to real data, information dissemination, as well as training for industry partners and fiscal support for higher performing buildings (low-energy housing credits) and products.