A residential development of 39 apartments in Urdorf, Switzerland, is demonstrating how pioneering technology can enable tenants to live comfortably with little-to-no electricity or heating costs. A range of ABB’s innovative solutions have been used to provide the homes with a year-round energy supply, which dramatically cuts the cost of running the apartments. Managed carefully, the energy budget included in the rent is sufficient to cover the cost of all inputs for an average household.
No fear of rising energy bills
Conserving energy is particularly important in this period of unprecedented utility costs. Switzerland, like other developed countries, is currently seeing natural gas, oil and electricity bills rising faster and more sharply than ever before. For this reason, financial experts are urging people to plan for considerably higher expenditure in the future.
While many people are concerned about the high costs of electricity and heat for their homes, the tenants of the Umwelt Arena Foundation development in Urdorf are remarkably relaxed. That is because, across the three buildings, energy is generated, stored, and saved through a variety of measures, including a building automation solution and energy measurement system, both provided by ABB. The resulting conservation of energy means that tenants of the Umwelt Arena Foundation who do not surpass the energy budget of 2000 kilowatt hours per year have their energy requirements met without additional electricity or heating costs.
Summer energy surplus is fed into the supply grid
Surplus electricity is produced from solar power over the summer months which is not required on site. The photovoltaic system on the roofs and facades along with the hybrid box are essential to ensure the energy supply of the buildings. The surplus power is fed into the grid and used to produce methane gas from water and sewage gas through a ‘power-to-gas’ plant. The plant, which is run by Limeco in neighbouring Dietikon, is probably the largest plant of its kind in Europe.
Using this renewable gas, a hybrid box in the basement produces electricity and heat during the winter months for all three buildings. In addition, the hybrid box uses ground probes, much like those found in heat pumps. The probes are inserted into five boreholes: one shorter summer probe and one longer winter probe. The summer probe is inserted at a depth of 130 metres and draws in excess heat in the upper area of the ground during the summer which has the additional benefit of cooling the apartments. The winter probe, at a much greater depth of 250 metres, produces a higher temperature yield from the ground thanks to the pre-heated upper area.
The hybrid box and the ABB AC500 programmable logic controller
The hybrid box technology being used in Urdorf is a completely new concept. It is a smart, predictive energy centre with the ABB AC500 programmable logic controller as the ‘brain’ which manages the system.
Hybrid wind-solar on the roof
A small hybrid wind-solar power plant on the roof of each building produces electric power from a combination of wind and sun. It operates even when the sun is low, through snow and rain, in winter and at night. It produces enough electricity to power the energy-efficient elevator within the building.
ABB-free@home® supports energy efficiency
Renting an apartment in the Urdorf development includes an energy budget that amounts to about 2,000 kilowatt hours per year. This corresponds to about half the normal consumption of a Swiss four-person household, so tenants also need to be mindful of their consumption and take advantage of additional energy-saving measures to keep costs as low as possible. This is where the ABB-free@home® system helps.
Integrated into the superstructure is the ABB-free@home®, a smart home system which enables residents to control lights and blinds while providing continual updates about their electricity, heating, and hot water consumption.
The use of blinds is particularly important because the targeted shading of sunlight, both in summer and winter, through the appropriate use of blinds can save energy. This is done by adding a layer of insulation during the heating period at night and in rooms that are not in use. Blinds also improve an indoor climate at low cost for the purposes of heating and air conditioning. Manually drawing and undrawing blinds is laborious and difficult to implement consistently so the ABB-free@home® system facilitates the process and can be used by the tenant manually from the comfort of their sofa or operated automatically by a configured scenario.
According to the architect of the development, René Schmid, “The entire residential development is designed for efficiency. The smart home solution, ABB-free@home® plays an important role in the overall concept, in which the occupant is actively supported and informed in the efficient use of energy.”
The ABB-Welcome camera-based door entry system has also been integrated, providing additional security and convenience for tenants. In addition, the entire main and low-voltage distribution in the superstructure comes from ABB.
Behaviour accounts for 30% of energy savings
According to Walter Schmid, President of Stiftung Umwelt Arena Schweiz, “Experience shows that tenants can save about 30% of the energy consumption without any loss of comfort through their behaviour. With a smart home system this can be implemented far more easily and consistently than manually.”
The installed ABB energy metering systems also collect consumption data for an energy management system. Residents are kept fully informed and aware by accessing this information via an app.
There are additional measures in place: a smart ventilation system, showers with heat recovery and an LCD display of hot water consumption, LED lighting with motion sensors and energy efficient household appliances. These combined with the ABB solutions ensure that, with a little care, the energy budget included in the rent is sufficient for most households.
Innovative building technology will help achieve climate targets
In Switzerland it is estimated that buildings account for 40% of primary energy consumption with the building sector responsible for around 25% of all greenhouse gas emissions. The sharp rise in energy prices highlights the benefits of energy-saving technology for individual tenants and that technology is readily at hand to address such issues. CO2-neutral superstructures like the one at Urdorf also offer real life examples of how the building sector can help to achieve climate targets.
Exhibition on the project in the Umwelt Arena in Spreitenbach
The Umwelt Arena innovations, which have been realized with exhibition partners such as ABB, are presented in an exhibition. The exhibition "Building 2050" presents the project in detail without energy costs for tenants. Open for individual visitors Wednesday - Sunday, themed tours can be booked for groups/associations/companies. (booking required in advance).