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Building and buying

Minergie: the Swiss standard for energy-efficient construction

Thomas Bott

New buildings or modernizations planned in accordance with the Minergie standard offer certified high energy efficiency. This is due to factors such as good insulation or independent electricity production via a photovoltaic system. There are three Minergie levels: Minergie, Minergie-P and Minergie-A. They guarantee that your home is efficient, sustainable and comfortable. If you want to sell the property, the certificate will also have a positive effect on the sales value. Find out here exactly what is behind the standards and what else is possible.

Minergie: the standard can be broken down as follows

Houses built according to the Minergie principle rely on good thermal insulation and a sophisticated ventilation concept. More precisely, the system must be “airtight”. Fresh air enters the building via a ventilation system. The temperature is adapted to demand, while filters ensure consistently high air quality. Another important factor is that according to Minergie, all buildings must be able to manage without fossil fuels, thereby ensuring greater sustainability. The standard is divided into three levels. Heating, insulation and ventilation are the key components of each.

Minergie

The basic Minergie certificate ensures the quality of the building structure and the efficiency of the building. It also conciliates these criteria with high living comfort. The main requirement for certification is the Minergie index. This covers the total energy footprint of a building and is calculated on the basis of demand minus savings. It is indicated in the somewhat unwieldy unit of kWh/m²a, i.e. kilowatt hours per square meter and year. According to the Minergie standard, the index for single and multi-family units is 55 kWh/m²a.

There are also other criteria:

  • The heating requirements of new buildings must comply with the current cantonal model regulations in the energy sector (MuKEn 2014)
  • The building must produce its own electricity in accordance with MuKEn 2014
  • There must be an airtightness concept, but it does not need to be measured
  • Controlled renewal of air and thermal insulation in summer
  • No fossil fuels may be used
  • Simple measurements for e-mobility suitability must be carried out on the building

Minergie-P

The Minergie-P standard is intended to provide added comfort and energy efficiency. The threshold for the total energy footprint is reduced to 50 kWh/m²a. The heating requirements for new buildings are 70 percent according to the values prescribed under MuKEn 2014 (base value EFH 16 kWh/m²a). Simply ensuring airtightness is not sufficient – it must also be measured. The other requirements are no different from those of the basic Minergie standard.

Minergie-A

Minergie-A focuses on large photovoltaic systems, which should make buildings as independent as possible from the national grid in terms of energy. Consequently, the Minergie index drops significantly to 35 kWh/m²a under this certification. In addition, the annual yield of the photovoltaic system must cover the energy requirements of the building from a financial perspective. The airtightness concept – including measurement – is the same as for Minergie-P. The heating requirements correspond to the Minergie standard, as do the other criteria.

A house with a pitched roof which has numerous photovoltaic modules mounted on it.

Large photovoltaic systems ensure greater independence from the power grid. They are very important for the Minergie-A standard.

ECO

ECO is not an independent certificate, but a supplement to the Minergie standards. With this extension, they become Minergie-ECO, Minergie-P-ECO and Minergie-A-ECO. The ECO supplement covers six subjects in the areas of health and building ecology:

  • Daylight
  • Sound insulation
  • Indoor climate
  • Sustainable building concept
  • Materials used (materialization) and processes
  • Total amount of non-renewable energy used, counting everything from raw material extraction to production and recycling (gray energy)

Depending on usage, the catalog of specifications for ECO is very long and contains 80 additional criteria for new buildings.

MQS construction and operation: additional quality assurance

As well as the standards already described, Minergie also offers a Minergie quality system for construction (“MQS Bau”) and Minergie quality system for operation (“MQS Betrieb”). The former ensures secure implementation of the measures required by the standards as well as structured documentation of the construction process. It results in the award of the label “MQS Bau geprüft”. The equivalent label for the operating side, “MQS Operation”, proves that optimal use is made of building services systems and that regular maintenance is carried out.

Minergie system replacement: a certificate for modernization

Even an existing building can be converted to the Minergie standard. There are five systems to choose from, depending on the age of the property and the insulation that is already in place. The aim is to meet the requirements of the cantonal building energy certificate (GEAK). The choice of system is adapted to the particular building:

  • System 1 is suitable for uninsulated buildings and is applied exclusively to the building shell, i.e. its insulation.
  • Systems 2, 3 and 4 include renewable heat generation as well as different types of insulation.
  • System 5 is tailored to old buildings and rows of buildings. The facades are not affected, the work targets heat generation inside.

Following modernization according to the Minergie standard, the next step is certification. This is usually quick and easy.

A man is sitting next to several piles of paper and books.

In order to obtain Minergie certification, you will need to plan construction accordingly and submit an application.

How to obtain a Minergie certificate

The path to certification begins during the planning stage. This is when you will need to decide which standard to aim for. The project plan will therefore specify all the work that needs to be done on the heating, insulation and power generation systems. It is then possible to apply to the certification body – by post or via the Minergie online platform.

The next step is for the official body to examine the application and contact you with any queries. If the requirements are met, the certification body will issue a pre-certificate for the construction project. Once the building is finished, you must submit the building confirmation. After a further inspection, you will receive the certificate confirming that your house has been built in accordance with the Minergie standard. In some cases, random checks may be carried out on site beforehand.

Conclusion: saving energy with Minergie – is it worthwhile for building owners?

By saving energy, you will also save money in the long run. Operating costs will be lower, especially if you generate a high proportion of your own electricity and heating energy. This will be the case to a large extent in a house certified according to the Minergie standard. The certificate can also have a positive effect on maintaining the value of the house. The Minergie certificate itself costs 1,200 francs for an energy reference area (the entire heated area in the house) of up to 250 square meters. For the Minergie-P standard, the price is 2,400 francs, for Minergie-A it is 2,600 francs.

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