Most people would readily agree that sustainably designed buildings make a valuable contribution to climate protection. Hardly anybody would contradict this very sweeping statement. However, that hardly does justice to the tremendous potential on which this general understanding is based. This is because the amount of energy that can be saved with energy-efficient buildings or building components is huge.
In 2017, the BDI, the Federation of German Industries, estimated that the German building sector is responsible for over 40 per cent of primary energy consumption and over 30 per cent of CO2 emissions in Germany. As well as that: failure to improve this sector’s consumption and emission levels would make it impossible for Germany to achieve its energy transition and climate protection goals. However, this same fact most likely also applies to other countries.
That said, energy-efficient buildings are not just an ecological sustainability issue. Renovating buildings and creating new infrastructures also makes more than sense from an economic perspective, irrespective of the high initial investment costs. This is because lower energy consumption is always associated with corresponding costs savings in the long term.
The choice of lighting is a simple example of how to increase energy efficiency, in particular in production buildings. LED lights save energy, are environmentally friendly and, on top of that, do not pose a risk to health. None of the fluorescent tubes still used at many manufacturing facilities display any of these features and, even though they are less expensive to produce than LED tubes, they are certainly not as energy efficient (only around 60 per cent compared to LEDs), have a shorter life span of only 30,000 hours as opposed to their modern competitors (50,000 hours) and contain mercury. Compared to other lighting elements, LED tubes do not have to be maintained and consistently emit light 1 – which is much appreciated by those familiar with the unpleasant symptoms and even pain (such as migraines) sometimes triggered by flickering fluorescent lights.
In recent years, L&R started replacing the existing lighting elements at its Schönau (AT), Neuwied (DE), Slavkov and Nová Paka (CZ) production facilities with LED lights. This process is not yet finished and more building sections will follow at the relevant sites. However, the figures available to date already speak for themselves: the facilities equipped with LED lights have been able to record a reduction in energy consumption of between 51 to 62 per cent per year without having made any changes to working and production conditions. L&R’s Nová Paka facility is furthermore being fitted with so-called SMART LED lights. These lights feature a special integrated sensor, which measures indoor daylight intensity and automatically adjusts their brightness accordingly. These SMART LED lights consequently use even less electricity during the summer months than ordinary LEDs. Storage facilities, in turn, are fitted with LEDs with motion sensors. This means that the LEDs will automatically reduce the light emitted if no motion is detected over a longer period of time in a corridor, for example. The Schönau offices have a similar lighting concept with motion sensors and timers.
However, energy efficiency cannot just be improved through use of different lighting elements, but also primarily via a range of structural improvements for sustainable energy use. This includes, for example, old draughty windows, which can lead to significant heat loss and high heating costs. In a move to address this very issue, L&R replaced 120 windows at its Vienna facility – which now predominantly comprises offices – with new, heat-insulating windows recently. This means that these offices are now saving 101,036 kWh heating energy annually, which simultaneously translates into a 25,080-kilogramme 2 reduction in CO2 emissions or 2,090 trees 3, which need not absorb these CO2 emissions.
The amount of energy consumed for heating purposes can also be reduced by improving external wall insulation, which is precisely what L&R did to parts of its Schönau facilities in 2017 and 2018. In this move, the external walls, which were built in 1960, were fitted with an exterior insulation and finish system, which has reduced annual energy consumption by 30,424 kWh and CO2 emissions by 7,552 kilogrammes (which corresponds to 630 trees 3).
Saving energy or electricity: where there is a will, there is a way. However, why not produce the electricity one needs oneself – and even do so with no cost to the environment? The solution here is photovoltaics. This very idea has been put into action at L&R’s logistics facility in Schönau an der Triesting in Austria: the entire roof of the facility, which has a size of 1,200 square metres, will be fitted with solar cells designed to convert energy into electricity in 2019. These cells are able to generate approximately 200,000 kWh a year – 75.7 per cent of which will be sufficient to meet L&R’s electricity requirements, which means that the surplus can be sold and fed into the public grid. This photovoltaic system will initially be leased for 14 years and then pass into L&R’s ownership in its 15th year. This means that the logistics facility will benefit from a fixed electricity price that is only a third of the regular cost during the lease years, and translates into annual electricity cost savings of around 17,000 euros (!) after the 15th year.
By the way: L&R’s Schönau facility is already making use of e-mobility and, in April 2019, L&R built an electricity charging station at which electric cars can charge their batteries. In future, this charging station will also be supplied with electricity generated by the photovoltaic system. However, the facility is also already making use of other e-mobility devices: the devices in question are e-bikes provided for staff for commuting the 1.5 kilometres between the logistics facility and the production and administration building located in the same town (Schönau).
Naturally, L&R continues to work to further improve its buildings in terms of energy efficiency and is in the process of planning more projects at the above and its other facilities. This is because energy efficiency is important – both for the environment and our own pocket.