What is PlusEnergy?

Primary energy consumption / gain in comparison

The Plusenergiehaus® achieves the world’s best energy value for buildings. It is however much more than a simple energy standard. PlusEnergy offers an architectural and ecological, social and economic concept incorporating many aspects and possibilities.

PlusEnergy makes one’s home a powerplant: The Plusenergiehaus® produces more energy than its owners actually need. With this positive energy balance, PlusEnergy exceeds every previous standard. Because low-energy homes still consume too much energy, and even Passive Homes still emit CO2 into the atmosphere, the energy surplus of a Plusenergiehaus® sets a new standard. Passive building is not enough, “carbon neutral”, “emission free” and “minimal energy homes” must be outmatched – we need “solar activation” for our homes!

With 100% renewable energy use, PlusEnergy is emissions-free operation of your home. In addition, PlusEnergy generates a surplus of clean solar energy into the home’s power supply. This is a crucial breakthrough in the fight against climate change.

PlusEnergy is made with natural building materials with the best energy-ecological Footprint. Good air, bright rooms full of daylight, warm walls and no indoor toxins: The Plusenergiehaus® is a comfortable home.

The PlusEnergy concept reflects an urban planning design, and displays its full potential with larger housing blocks and communities. It offers a solution for energy, transportation, water, sewage and waste management. And it also provides answers to the multifaceted social and demographic questions in urban planning. Solar architecture is the social architecture of the future.

PlusEnergy is not simply a future vision. The concept was implemented in multiple communities. The Plusenergiehaus® is already here, it has existed for over 15 years! You can find it in Freiburg and other cities in Germany.

Long ago the Plusenergiehaus® was developed so that it could be built anywhere at a marketable price: from single homes to entire housing communities, for residential and commercial building, as hotels, schools, exhibition halls and nursing homes – for all imaginable goals.

Today the Plusenergiehaus® is not only ecologically, but also economically sound. As energy costs rise, the Plusenergiehaus® will continue to turn utility costs into excess income. The additional investment becomes financed through saving and selling energy. Cheaper building is more expensive!

The quantum leap in architecture has been taken. In regards to new building, the solution is already here.
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Why do we need PlusEnergy?

Environmental protection is the duty of mankind. Protecting our resources is not only a question of survival for our economy, but also a global responsibility and the prospects for generations to come. As Nobel-prize winner Al Gore reinforced, at this juncture it’s about survival and the future of our civilization.

Al Gore on Climate Change (3 Min.)

The burning of fossil fuels is the catalyst for climate change; consequently the key to environmental protection is energy. Approximately half of our energy use comes from building and living. The breakthrough for truly carbon-neutral and environmentally supportive building and living lies within the Plusenergiehaus®.

Buildings can no longer continue to casually burn through our fossil fuels, because otherwise they will soon been depleted. Additionally, one must prepare for gas, oil and coal prices to skyrocket. Today new buildings do not need to use fossil fuels, in fact, just the opposite as they can now additionally generate solar energy! All you need to do is build them.

One will inevitably build them, because nothing but the highest standard for energy efficiency will be accepted. Therefore every owner needs PlusEnergy, the best solution with which the owner receives only the highest standards and can further profit from the solar gains their home generates. With independence now and in the long-run, one can manage to finally relieve themselves from the ever-climbing spiral of energy prices, while even low-energy homes will become more costly because of their expensive retrofitting bills.

The Plusenergiehaus® not only makes its owners self-sufficient, but rather helps to make cities and regions energy independent. Entire national economies must become energy autonomous, if nothing else for political reasons, as notes Hermann Scheer, winner of the Alternative Nobel-Prize. No more money will drain off to oil-run countries, rather it will go towards the local economy. Capital will be redirected from ecologically destructive segments to a sustainable, new, peaceful economy.

Hermann Scheer and Chris Turner on Renewable Energy (9 Min.)

“The thing I find the most powerful – again a German example – are the PlusEnergy houses of Rolf Disch in Freiburg” says Chris Turner, in his global “Geography of hope.”

PlusEnergy is partaking in a huge rebound, a huge departure, a huge chance.
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How does PlusEnergy work?

Cross-section of a Plusenergiehaus®

Large advancements rely mostly on simple ideas, so simple, that they at first seem unbelievable: save energy and generate a surplus of power, use the power of the sun and have 100% renewable energy.

In order to achieve its annual median positive energy footprint, the building makes the best possible use – active and passive – from the only form of energy available in abundance, free of charge everyday, everywhere: solar energy. The house generates its own electricity and heat, uses them intelligently, and retains them in the building’s structure.

This can be demonstrated with a typical PlusEnergy home : The roof is made of the most extensive photo voltaic unit equipped with a solar thermal collector to heat tap water. The well-tested and well-proven use of the roof overhang shields from the high summer sun, while it still allows rays of the winter sun to penetrate into the home.

High-grade and transparent, the south façade’s infrared-reflecting, triple-paned insulated glass maintains the warmth within the home. The entire building’s skin is insulated, thermal-bridge free, and is densely sealed. In addition, the ventilation system facilitates a permanent fresh air supply with nearly no heat loss.

The activation of the building masses as a thermal reservoir is further strengthened by the addition of the Phase Changing Material in the inner walls. Also with commercial PlusEnergy buildings, a vacuum-insulated façade is implemented. Should an additional heating unit be necessary, there are several options to do so with renewable energy.

We employ advanced, clever solutions as necessary, i.e. high-tech heating systems. Otherwise, the technical expenditure of our homes are easy, robust, low-maintenance and user-friendly – because these are also economically successful.

PlusEnergy works – it’s scientifically proven!

“The long-term goal is carbon-free homes,” reported the German government with their fifth energy research program – as if reality wasn’t already beyond that. However science is well beyond the next step, as explored by the 59 existing PlusEnergy houses in the Solar Settlement in Freiburg. The results of a long-term study at the Bergische University in Wuppertal were published in January 2009 in the Deutsche Bauzeitschrift (German Building Magazine).

The Solar Settlement houses actually do generate a surplus – and indeed the average per square meter and year was 36 kWh. Included therein are all of the energy consumption values: Heating and warm water, household and appliance power, not only, like otherwise customary, the heat energy.

In comparison: the existing buildings in Germany lie at an average of 435 kWh, the minimum energy standard for new building (EnEV 2009) at 260 kWh, and even the passive house allows up to 120 kWh of consumption. Here we are talking about consumption. The Plusenergiehaus® covers its own consumption and generates another 36 kWh still on top of that.

How does that work? Prof. Karsten Voss and engineer Mira Heinze explain this in their study. They act on the assumption from the average of all the Solar Settlement homes: Three residents share 137 m2 floor space. Now imagine the exact same house, as if it were actually built after the minimum energy building standard (EnEV). Then it would consume 185 kWh/m2 per year.

However one can only insulate a home so well – how the residents live and which electrical equipment they use plays a roll as well. That is why an energy saving household is estimated, like the Solar Settlement determined, to stay at 165 kWh/m2. Now the building is only within the passive house energy standard. With that it consumes 98 kWh/m2.
It also depends on where the energy used comes from. It is more efficient for example when one uses a mini-CHP in their own home, with wood pellets from the region, than when one uses an age-old heating system with Arabian petroleum. That is why there is a key multiplier for the so called “primary energy.” Through the district heat network with partial wood buring we arrive in Freiburg at a consumption of 79 kWh/m2 of primary energy.

In addition to 79 kWh/m2a in consumption, the photovoltaic installation generates 115 kWh. This yields a final energy gain of 36 kWh.

The energy savings at the Solar Settlement in total, including the 59 PlusEnergy homes and the commercial and retail Sun Ship, are equivalent to 200,000 L of oil or 500 tons of CO2 per year.

Meanwhile, the Plusenergiehaus® is capable of even more! Since the realization of the Solar Settlement, the home and housing community concepts have been further developed. With optimized components, PlusEnergy homes can now generate up to 200 kWh/m2 per year.

The average information for a house in the Solar Settlement was taken and reported with an average of 2.9 residents, 1,475 ft2 heated floor space and 527 ft2 of solar power units with 6.3 kW peak capacity. The average house in the Freiburg Solar Settlement generates a surplus of 36 kWh/m2a primary energy. In order to demonstrate how well the concept actually works, Professor Dr. Karsten Voss calculated the following in the study:

  • “The average home in the Solar Settlement, as a model planned after the EnEV- requirements, the minimum energy efficiency restraints for a new house in Germany, would consume 185 kWh/m2a.

  • The PlusEnergy home built only with the Passive House Standard would still consume 98 kWh/m2a.

  • When that home’s heat is drawn from the local heat network from wood burning, its consumption is reduced to79 kWh/m2a.

  • This low consumption is counterbalanced with a credit of 79 kWh/m2a primary solar powered energy. The generated surplus is on average 36 kWh/m2a of primary energy.”

  • Photovoltaic unit / Inverter

    Ecological building – healthy living

    Bright and healthy atmosphere

    Using natural materials is not only great for the environment, rather it is also good for the environments we build for ourselves. After all, central Europeans spend over 80% of their lives indoors.

    Equal for both living or for working space, the Plusenergiehaus® avoids any kind of harmful substances. All of the building materials must be emission free. Together with modern ventilation systems – not energy-wasting air conditioning – the PlusEnergy-construction guarantees permanently fresh, healthy and well-climatized air.

    Light-flooded rooms cater for a cheerful atmosphere. The large-paned windows, that are so essential for PlusEnergy, also cater towards a positive and comfortable balance within the home. Ecology is in no case asceticism and waiving one’s comfort, but rather PlusEnergy means a luxury for all, that is essential for a buoyant and reasonable, healthy and joyful lifestyle.

    An example: The Sun Ship

    Insulate homes, everyone can do that now. But to build and organize a large office and commercial building modelled according to PlusEnergy building standards was regarded by the German National Environment Foundation (Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt) as so innovative, that they developed an entirely new energy façade with generous sponsorship.
    The energy that a building generates must be held within that building. That is why a modern building needs a well designed façade. With the example of the “Sun Ship,” the 60,000 ft2 commercial developed section of the Solar Settlement in Freiburg, one can observe these necessary measures. The following three films demonstrate the façade’s post-and-beam construction from wood, with special windows and vacuum-insulated panels. Ventilation with heat recovery is integrated into the façade, and the two potential thermal bridges, the incoming and outgoing air channels, are stinted.

    The principle and construction of the wood façade
    (5.20 Min.)

    The energy concept of the façade (7.45 Min.)

    The ventilation concept of the façade
    (5.20 Min.)

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    PlusEnergy as an Investment

    Crisis? What crisis!?! There are only challenges; economic, social, and ecological. Challenge and response: Sustainability is the answer to today’s crisis and the basic energy problems of our international economic system.

    Investments in PlusEnergy-projects have proved themselves resistant to the current economic crisis – and they will defy any energy crisis as well. PlusEnergy-real estate investment funds have so far upheld or exceeded all their prognoses and they have satisfied well over 1,000 investors! Among our institutional investors, foundations, above all, have contributed not only towards a safe, high-yielding & clear-cut investment but also an ecologically ethical one.

    Link to Sun Ship real estate investment fund

    A Plusenergiehaus® brings financial advantages to the owner as well as the tenants – and in the case it is owner occupied then one receives double the benefit. Because the Plusenergiehaus® reduces energy consumption to a minimum and a surplus of up to 200 kWh of primary energy per m2 per year is generated, thus a supplementary income instead of extra costs is achieved.

    The Plusenergiehaus® - Annual energy and cost analysis

    The 5 steps to the Plusenergiehaus® - Primary energy in kWh/ft2a

    The 5 steps to the Plusenergiehaus® - Primary energy in $/ft2a

    Plusenergiehaus® - Costs and Income (Primary energy in $)

    And what is the cost? The energy savings and the buyback price for the solar power bear the higher investment compared to a conventional new building. Even with the financing costs included, a PlusEnergy building will still uphold not only an energy plus but also a financial plus in the first year.

    Plusenergiehaus® - Calculations of Profits Costs compared with revenue and profit in $/a

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    PlusEnergy in every community

    The sun is your safest rate of return!

    In the UN, EU and German Federal Parliament – all over the provisions for environmental protection are being discussed, targets aimed for and programs launched. The changeover will happen locally, in cities and communities. Moreover: right now these communities have the potential to be in the front of the movement, take the energy turnaround into their own local hands and thereby ensure their future sustainability.
    That is why all German communities, all 11,000, were contacted by Rolf Disch Solar Architecture. All the German mayors were informed of the PlusEnergy opportunity. Over 300 of them have manifested an interest and several PlusEnergy housing estates are already in planning: Königsfeld, Schopfheim, Waissach, Nuremberg, Cologne… little and large communities in addition to developers have begun contracts with the PlusEnergy concept, in order to explore the PlusEnergy opportunity. A number of projects are already underway.

    PlusEnergy in every Community

    What can communities do?

    The community is an owner and a model at the same time. They can build and use a Plusenergiehaus® as a demonstration to show that it works. As property owners they can adequately allocate property. Residential city builders can become committed to the highest efficiency standards.
    Communities can develop a political master plan and enact it. Above all the community should decide on a development plan. The first step to a PlusEnergy housing community is the master plan, which will be optimized in respect to urban development and energy. Such integrated solutions belong to the PlusEnergy-Concept and such communities can be designed and built by Rolf Disch Solar Architecture.

    Green Money

    Communities and „Green Money“

    A pilot project that convinces and enthuses always has the chance to be implemented. A large number of institutions, sponsors and foundations would gladly provide support, one must only ask. Today local and regional banks know about the big chance for a sustainable project and PlusEnergy is the opportunity.

    Likewise the market for “green money” is expanding, even where other markets stagger. Institutional investors and private owners alike invest increasingly and profitably – ethically and ecologically. So help carry out a trend-setting public participation project. Then the citizens will have the chance for sustainability and to invest in a local „green“ real estate investment fund – in their social security. With these ventures Rolf Disch Solar Architecture offers consultation and assistance.

    Cities and communities need sustainable buildings. Where brand new housing communities or redensification building was thought of, where singles and young families are allured, where multi-generation living projects with attractive living space for both young and old can be created, that is where one must think 30 to 50 years in advance. The decision to move to or from, invest or not invest lies with the plausible and sustainable vision of the community.

    „Is it not an electrifying idea to add an example of such living quality to every German community, and thus own something that anyone interested could really see and feel? That is how a Plusenergiehaus® embodies modernity, savoir-vivre, indeed luxury at its finest, in short everything a location would like to show off to promote itself. And new building standards demonstrate: We are thinking of future generations,” said Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker, environmental activist, emeritus dean of the Environmental College of Santa Barabara, California and former president of the German Federal Environment Committee.

    The time is ripe for decisions, especially now in community politics. Make these decisions for communal environmental protection with the Plusenergiehaus®.

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    PlusEnergy - The Manifesto

    PlusEnergy - The Manifesto

    Climate change must be curbed, fossil-nuclear resources are running out. And what do we do? We organize congresses. In Kyoto, Copenhagen and Cancun. What next? Kansas, Kiev and Calcutta? We keep sending our best forces with our best intentions – on wrong tracks. The congress messes it all up. Reason retreats to negations: prohibitions, reductions, penalties. World politics want the right thing and cannot achieve it. Quotas for the harmful old energies, this means nothing but extending the "Ancien Régime", and it inevitably comes down to only minimum consensus. Let us not slowly curb the old, but build the new. Instead of storming blind alleys, let us pave new ways out into the open. And the new solution – it is PlusEnergy.

    Today we waste half of our energy in buildings. What an enormous potential for savings, what an opportunity for architects and urban planners, homeowners and residents, trade and industry, for the whole society! Do we really seize the opportunity, or are we missing it? Low energy and passive house were steps along the way. But only with PlusEnergy we do not only reduce the energy demands to a minimum. And we cover the rest entirely from renewable sources. And we generate energy, more than is needed in the house, and share it. All this has long been tested and built. Whether for residential, office or commercial buildings. Whether for new construction or renovation. Whether in the Arctic or on the equator: The new solution – it is PlusEnergy.

    The step from experiment to market maturity has long been taken, and the PlusEnergy standard is more cost-effective than the conventional building. The step has long been taken from the single house to complete PlusEnergy housing estates. So let us move on. To PlusEnergy cities, PlusEnergy regions, to a world of PlusEnergy. To integrated concepts of 100% renewable energy supply. To intelligent e-mobility, with your roof as your “gas station”. Where today there is consumption, there shall be power generation tomorrow. Houses become power plants!

    The economic and social benefits are as great as the environmental benefits. The sun shines everywhere, and everywhere the people, the houses, the municipalities can become energy producers. Decentralized and democratic, flexible and fast. The dependence from oil-producing countries comes to an end, and the capital outflow is stopped. Each of us is called for. Anyone can win. Join in with PlusEnergy. Only this building standard makes a decisive contribution to an emission-free world. To a world that still remains habitable for our children and grandchildren, and to a society that does not encumber its successors with hazardous wastes for generations. We work together to build the future. With imagination. With civic spirit. With PlusEnergy.

    Rolf Disch, Freiburg, November 2010

    The Poster can be found here
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    The Freiburg Charter

    The German Climate Calculation Center’s high-performance computer in Hamburg has spit out alarming results. By the end of the century it indicates that the global temperature could climb up four degrees and at the North Pole even up to ten degrees higher. Massive sheets of ice continue to melt rapidly – with dramatic implications for mother earth.

    The melting of Greenland’s mainland ice masses will raise sea level by about 7 meters at the very least. Several of the world’s largest metropolitan areas, like Tokyo, New York City, Shanghai, Sydney and Calcutta for example, but also entire countries, like Holland and Bangladesh will sink into the ocean.

    Climate change, created by man, can no longer be dismissed. The consequences are floods, drought, and armed conflicts just to name a few.

    A reversal, a counteract is still possible. Thus we should not just abandon environmental protection conferences and such other opportunities. Otherwise, we could end up just like the people in the meeting in the comic above by Milan Rader. It also helps in our immediate surrounding environments to undertake efforts and to develop environmentally healthy habits. Rolf Disch Solar Architecture currently develops the “Freiburg Charter” – an ambitious catalogue of objectives and principles, aimed to locally contribute towards the fight against the impact of climate change.

    The text will be available soon on this website.

    The green movement began in Freiburg - Interview with Thomas Dresel (10.40 Min.)