10. Innovation and Product Management

The company discloses how innovations in products and services are enhanced through suitable processes which improve sustainability with respect to the company’s utilisation of resources and with regard to users. Likewise, a further statement is made with regard to if and how the current and future impact of the key products and services in the value chain and in the product life cycle are assessed.

Social and environmental effects
Living accommodation is of vital importance – there is no doubt about that. However, the shortage of affordable housing in metropolitan areas and conurbations is making it much harder to meet this fundamental need. That is why we are doing what needs to be done: building new, modern  apartments which provide attractive living conditions. Our new construction projects are based on widely recognised sustainability criteria which apply to the entire life cycle of a property.

The building sector accounts for approximately 40% of energy consumption and around 30% of national carbon dioxide emissions. It is to be “decarbonised” by 2050. With around 20 million rented units, the housing industry plays a key role in Germany’s climate policy. This is why we are actively reducing the environmental impact of our existing buildings by making lasting investments in energy-efficient refurbishment. Furthermore, we are modernising our technical systems with a view to making energy management at our properties more and more efficient.

Energy efficiency 
Choosing energy from eco-friendly sources is a major factor in lessening the climate impact of residential holdings. To enable us to act more independently, efficiently and profitably in this area, Deutsche Wohnen established the joint venture G+D with the energy supplier GETEC. In conjunction with G+D, we are increasing the energy efficiency of the power generation units at our properties and reducing both CO² emissions and energy costs at the same time. As of 31 December 2017, G+D already supplied energy to approximately 58% of the Deutsche Wohnen portfolio which is heated centrally. This proportion rose to around 75% on 1 January 2018.

Our joint venture G+D has now put ist fifth combined heat and power (CHP) plant – an eco-friendly alternative to conventional power stations – into operation. The latest CHP plant is in Marienfelde in southern Berlin and supplies energy and heat to a residential complex with around 900  units. The CHP plant in Imbrosweg has an electrical output of 902 kWel and a thermal output of 931 kWth. It is the largest combined heat and power plant to be operated at Deutsche Wohnen’s holdings to date. Fed with climate-friendly biogas, the CHP plant increases the Group’s production of green electricity from 9 GWh to approximately 12 GWh per annum. Putting it into use upped the rated electrical output of the power plant “fleet” to a total of 2,150 kW. The electricity produced is fed into the public grid in  return for payment. By using CHP plants at our properties, we are helping to make our energy supply more climate-friendly one step at a time. Going forward, we intend to further expand the  cecentralised energy supply to our holdings and produce more power ourselves.

Maintenance and modernisation 
The majority of our apartments were not built by us. As a result, there may still be materials in a small number of buildings which are considered harmful on exposure. Although the impacts on health and the environment are generally low, we replace these materials before they can come into contact with their surroundings. Whenever a tenancy changes hands, we routinely inspect our residential units for safety issues and health hazards. If any are found, they are immediately rectified. In doing so, we also reduce the risk of reputational damage for the company and compensation payments which could result from a potential accident involving hazardous substances.

The way in which hazardous building materials are dealt with is strictly regulated by guidelines and legislation. When replacing and disposing of asbestos and other hazardous waste, we comply closely with the Technical Rules for Hazardous Substances (Technischen Regeln für Gefahrstoffe – TRGS). We also substitute building materials containing asbestos or other harmful substances with suitable alternatives. Contaminated material is disposed of as per the regulations as a matter of course.

New construction 
We believe that sustainable building makes good sense both ecologically and economically. Because of this, our new construction projects take into account the German Assessment System for Sustainable Development (Bewertungssystem Nachhaltiges Bauen – BNB), the requirements of the German Sustainable Building Council (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Nachhaltiges Bauen – DGNB) and the guidance from Sustainable Housing (Nachhaltiger Wohnungsbau – NaWoh). When doing so, we consider the whole life cycle of a building, spanning everything from its conceptualisation, planning and realisation to the time when occupation commences. This includes placing a special focus on the use of non-hazardous, eco-friendly materials and sustainable energy, water and transport concepts.  Deutsche Wohnen’s new construction processes are accompanied by qualified service providers for sustainable building certification, who advise us, produce concepts and measurements for accreditation, coordinate the planning and building-related documentation, and incorporate requirements for sustainable materials into suppliers’ contracts. This is designed to ensure that all the products used evidence recognised health and environmental compatibility during their production, transportation, processing, use or disposal. Some of the building materials utilised are certified as per the Cradle to Cradle® concept, meaning they are compatible with a closed-loop system. All plots for new builds are carefully examined for any evidence of contamination and treated in accordance with the statutory requirements of the German Federal Soil Protection Act (Bundes-Bodenschutzgesetz – BBodSchG).

Examples of the strategy we apply for new construction projects can be found in our Sustainability Report 2017, p. 34 f.