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How to economically achieve the climate targets in real estate?

Buildings account for 40% of total energy consumption and 36% of CO2 emissions. This underlines the urgent need to reduce these emissions to meet climate targets and tackle the energy crisis in the long term. In residential and commercial buildings heating and cooling systems account for the most operational emissions of a building. Therefore, policymakers, building owners and individuals must take action to reduce emissions from buildings and prioritise energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy in building construction and renovation.

Building with plants

EU is committed to green buildings

The European Union (EU) and the international community have recognised the importance of reducing building emissions and have set ambitious targets to improve the sustainability of buildings. In 2010, the EU adopted the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD), which requires all new buildings to be near-zero energy buildings by 2021. In addition, the United Nations World Green Building Council has launched the Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment, which calls for all buildings to be zero carbon by 2050. Several reporting requirements and certification schemes, such as the Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB) and Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) reporting, provide transparency and accountability for building sustainability. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is also becoming increasingly important as companies are expected to report on their environmental and social impacts. These initiatives demonstrate a clear commitment to improving the sustainability of buildings and reducing emissions, and these efforts must continue and are reinforced through policy and regulation.

Existing buildings are the challenge

New buildings are increasingly designed and constructed with energy efficiency in mind, using innovative technologies and materials to minimize environmental impact. However, the challenge lies in the large number of existing buildings built before strict energy efficiency standards were introduced. According to the European Commission, more than 220 million buildings, or 85% of the EU building stock, were built before 2001. 85-95% of today's buildings will still be standing in 2050, and most are not energy efficient. One-third (35%) of the EU building stock is over 50 years old, and more than 40% was built before 1960. According to current building standards, nearly 75% of it is energy inefficient.

The EU's long-term goal is to achieve a highly energy-efficient and decarbonized building stock by 2050, with an intermediate target of renovating at least 35 million buildings by 2030.

Additional pressure for real estate owners

Property owners and managers are increasingly confronted with new requirements, such as making buildings more energy-efficient, cost-effective and sustainable. In addition, there are various regulations, such as Building Rehabilitation Act (at the EU and national level, such as the obligation to renovate and replace heating systems). As a result, the long-term management of the real estate is becoming increasingly complex and is further complicated by the following:

  • Accessibility of data: Digital data such as building envelope performance, energy consumption, and CO2 emissions are not always available and collecting them is expensive and time-consuming. Often there needs to be digitised data.

  • Cost pressure: The large variety of buildings with different equipment increases the complexity of future CapEx and OpEx optimisations and therefore requires in-depth energy and financial expertise. The lack of digitalisation means that a lot of work has to be done manually, which is costly and time-consuming. In addition, quality often needs to improve due to manual processes. By outsourcing many competencies, the cost pressure is also increased. Long waiting times are also caused by the need for more skilled workers and supply chain constraints, which puts pressure on property owners. The lack of transparency thus often leads to hidden costs. Decarbonising buildings in a cost-optimised and economical way is, therefore, complicated.

  • Net-Zero targets: The decarbonisation pathway needs to be dynamically adapted to changing regulations, climate risks and subsidies and regularly monitored.

In addition to all these challenges, buildings must be considered individually so that all critical factors (such as information about the building envelope, technical installations and light irradiation) can be included in the planning and strategic decision-making. But how can real estate owners efficiently address these challenges?

OPTIMUSE as a pain reliever

OPTIMUSE provides a software solution for evaluating, reporting and reducing real estate portfolio CO2 emissions and energy consumption. In addition, the solution generates cost-optimised renovation and decarbonisation paths and enables the following:

  • Digital Twin: A Digital Twin is generated based on 2D plans (images, PDFs or DWGs) and building information. Data such as live data or an energy performance certificate can be used as an additional data source. OPTIMUSE follows the principle of data enrichment, which enables to start of the analysis with very little data about the building. All further information can be added in a later stage to increase accuracy.

  • Measures: Decarbonisation and modernisation measures of individual buildings or real estate portfolios are generated automatically. Measures analysed include the required investment and operating costs, future energy consumption, potential CO2 savings (based on thermal simulations) and preliminary technical planning.

  • Pre-planning: For each calculated measure, suitable project partners and solution providers are suggested. These can integrate their solution directly into the Digital Twin and have it pre-dimensioned with the help of the software. This gives customers a better feeling for the final solution and a pre-certification (e.g. ÖGNI).

Exemplary project

Do you face the challenge of cost-effectively decarbonising your real estate?

Contact us and book a free demo.


Buildings Performance Institute Europe. (2019). Europe's buildings under the microscope: A country-by-country review of the energy performance of buildings.

European Commission. (2010). Energy Performance of Buildings Directive.

European Commission. (2016). Clean energy for all Europeans: unlocking Europe's growth potential.

European Commission (2020). A Renovation Wave for Europe - greening our buildings, creating jobs, improving lives.

European Commission (2020). European Green Deal.

European Commission. (2020). Corporate social responsibility (CSR).

European Parliament and Council (2018). Directive 2018/844/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 30 May 2018 amending Directive 2010/31/EU on the energy performance of buildings and Directive 2012/27/EU on energy efficiency.

European Commission. (2020). Renovation Wave for Europe: greening our buildings, creating jobs, improving lives.

Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB). (n.d.). About GRESB.

IEA (2019). Energy Efficiency 2019.

International Energy Agency. (2021). Energy Efficiency 2021.

National Institute of Building Sciences. (2018). The Continuing Challenge of Existing Building Retrofits.

Passivhaus Institut (2020). Passive House.

UN Environment Programme. (2021). Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment.

United Nations Global Compact. (2015). Communication on Progress: A Guide for Participants.

United Nations Environment Programme. (2019). Global Status Report for Buildings and Construction 2019.

US Department of Energy. (n.d.). Building Energy Efficiency.

World Green Building Council (2018). Bringing Embodied Carbon Upfront.

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