Jun

19

There seems to be something odd going on with German real estate. People are clamoring for 'energy efficient' apartment/office blocks that are near the city centre, whereas many older buildings in the outskirts have a low rate of occupancy. (From a British friend visiting Germany).

The clamor for "green" property in Germany is driven by social pressures, not economic pressures, even though they have been much, much better at energy efficiency than the rest of the Western world for decades.

Immediately after WW2 the Germans started doing serious, formal research into how to make existing or new buildings energy efficient, while most of the rest of the world was mostly not thinking much about it. About 15 years ago some of them realized that a graph of the increased construction cost to make a building more energy efficient vs. the payback is not a straight line - it has many bumps in it. One major bump occurs where the building is energy efficient enough to not need a heating system. Spending slightly less on efficiency means buying a boiler, heaters, piping, etc, and spending slightly more means greatly diminished return on investment. Ironically, in researching these ideas they came primarily to the US, where we've built 2 or 3 such houses per decade for years. The Germans wrote a standard for how to do this, and as of 10 years ago they had built 6 such buildings, all single family residences. Now they have well over 10,000 built new and renovated, not only houses but sports facilities, office buildings, schools, apartment buildings, etc., often for lower cost than normal buildings, because of the decrease in construction cost associated with skipping the heating system.

Perhaps their culture has something to do with it, and with our attitude too, as our parents' generation came to literally rule the world by controlling access to oil in WW2 (the fighting in Burma was not about palm trees, ditto for Romania, the SouthWestern USSR soviet oil fields, etc.) The Japanese sent the world's largest battleships out to fight without enough fuel for a return trip, and when the Germans made the world's first jet fighter planes they were rumored to be towing them to the runway with horses to save fuel, but that was not true. The army had all the horses, the air force used cows. Now Germany and Japan are the most energy efficient countries in their hemispheres, while Russia and China and the US, who won the war, are the least fuel efficient.

In the US we've been responding by clamoring for "green" buildings which in fact use more energy than comprable buildings (on average), but with almost nobody asking to see utility bills and almost nobody showing bills, worse and worse buildings become more and more popular. Ditto in Germany, as the image of environmental friendliness sells much better than actual environmental friendliness in the form of energy efficiency or any other form.

Certainly an example of the lack of counting having a huge effect, and the public paying more than they deserve to pay to end up with something that has less real value than simply buying nothing.


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