The company discloses the extent to which natural resources are used for the company’s business activities. Possible options here are materials, the input and output of water, soil, waste, energy, land and biodiversity as well as emissions for the life cycles of products and services.
Energy, water and waste management
Approximately 40% of global greenhouse gas emissions today are attributable to the energy consumption of buildings. According to a study by the World Green Building Council, the gross internal floor area of buildings will double by 2060. In Germany, around 40% of the final energy consumption total and about 30% of carbon emissions are generated by buildings and their residents. As part of our procurement strategy, which has proved successful over many years, we purchase certified electricity from renewable sources. We sourced approximately 90% of the communal electricity (used for entrance and hallway lighting and for technical equipment) for our residential and commercial units let as of 31 December 2017 from hydroelectric power. Compared with the conventional electricity mix – where renewables usually account for 30% – we were able to save 17,365 t of CO² equivalents in the reporting year (2016: 17,555 t of CO² equivalents). Additionally, we produce our own electricity with our 52 photovoltaic systems and five combined heat and power (CHP) plants. We fed 12,708 MWh into the public grid in the year under review.
The consumption of energy and water at let units depends largely on our tenants’ behaviour as users. Our customers enter into their own contracts with suppliers for electricity and gas. Deutsche Wohnen is obligated to procure water from the relevant municipal water companies. Deutsche Wohnen only has two means of influencing resource usage here. Firstly, we can pave the way for efficient energy and resource consumption by optimising energy generation and distribution systems, procuring green power and implementing other energy conservation measures. Secondly, we try to raise our tenants’ awareness of ecological issues. Thus, we hope to motivate residents to conserve resources by issuing statements of costs on the basis of their actual consumption of the resources in question (heating and hot/cold water). When completing more complex modernisation work, we facilitate this by installing additional heat cost allocators and hot or cold water meters. In 2017, we recorded water consumption of approximately 8 million litres for our Berlin holdings, which make up about 71% of our whole portfolio. This marked a reduction of around 6% compared with the previous year. Viewed in relation to the floor area of our holdings, consumption figures are also low at 1.24 l/sqm.
We cannot directly influence our tenants’ behaviour with regard to the volume of waste produced either. However, we improve our holdings’ environmental friendliness by systematically sorting through the waste in rubbish and recycling bins. This allows us to adjust the number of rubbish and recycling bins to actual needs and lower wasterelated operating costs for our tenants accordingly. In the reporting year, we thereby reduced the total volume of waste produced at our holdings by some 12 million litres compared with 2016 to 917 million litres.
We constantly take steps to conserve resources and reduce waste at our administrative locations. To further minimise paper in day-to-day office work, we will make greater use of digital documents and virtual document management in the future while printing less. The slight increase in paper usage of 1.8 t is attributable to the larger workforce in the year under review. Nevertheless, we were able to decrease paper waste by 8.5 t. We ensure that drinking water is used carefully. However, as office work does not require much water, we do not view water usage at our administrative locations as material. We have already taken steps to reduce consumption in the past by installing low-flush toilets and energy-saving dishwashers.
Deutsche Wohnen uses materials in three ways: for major projects such as the refurbishment and modernisation of apartments, for smaller projects involving ongoing maintenance and tenancy turnover, and for new construction work. The majority of building materials we use are industrially manufactured products and substances, all of which are tested to DIN standards.
We are fully aware that all the materials we use have effects on the environment – be it when raw materials are sourced, during the manufacturing process or when they are disposed of. To avoid negative impacts to the greatest possible extent, we take ecological and health-related criteria into account when we make purchasing decisions. Since sustainable materials are usually more expensive, this decision has a direct impact on our operating result.
First and foremost, we influence the choice of materials by means of concrete stipulations as projects are generally completed by subcontractors. We demand compliance with Germany’s comprehensive legislation and regulations for health and environmentalprotection. Especially when constructing new buildings, we pay particular attention to adopting an integrated and sustainable planning approach which involves the use of natural and environmentally friendly construction materials.
We also ensure that building biology criteria are strictly observed. This includes, for instance, the use of non-hazardous construction materials, the creation of a healthy indoor environment, a high quality of indoor ambient air, window frames made of wood or network circuit breakers for the avoidance of electro smog. We invest in the ecological sustainability of our new builds as well. Some of the building supplies we use are certified as per the Cradle to Cradle® concept, meaning they are part of a closed-loop system whereby materials are completely reused. Due to environmental considerations, we avoid Styrofoam insulation whenever possible and use cellulose or mineral wool instead.