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Read part II and answer the questions after it.
In conjunction with the local college and other businesses, Fritz is attempting to combine high-technology and ecology in an “intelligent house” in Rosenheim. The windows close when the air conditioning comes on, and the blinds quietly roll down before the sun makes the occupants perspire. The house technology can be controlled via monitors or the telephone. “We need houses that demand less looking after, that gives us more time for our children, that are more fun,” says the father of two children. “Where are the self-cleaning windows? What about electronic systems that let us in, but keep burglars out? Where is the exchangeable installation core?” At least Fritz has been able to realize the latter in his houses.
The eco-manager has worked with the wood technologists in Rosenheim for many years in order to gain a scientific foundation for his ideas. Since 1996 he has enjoyed inviting his partners to “Germany’s largest wooden head.” From time to time Fritz brings together managers, engineers and politicians inside the 15-metere-tall sculpture to plan an environmentally friendly building future. He appeals for ideas and thinking based on natural cycles and oriented toward the sun.
On this point, Hubert Fritz is on exactly the same wavelength as Rolf Disch, the Freiburg-based solar pioneer. In contrast to Fritz, however, Disch does not limit himself to using only one building material. Wherever possible the architect uses wood, but if necessary his houses are also made of stone with polystyrene insulating material. Disch always gives priority to the economical use of electricity and heat. “That’s the most important thing,” says 54-year-old looking down over the vineyards onto the city of Freiburg. Disch has an unobstructed view from the fully glazed side of his house. What is more, Heliotrop, his solar tree house, can turn in all directions, towards and away from the sun as needed. The architect lets the sunshine in during the winter, but on hot summer days he gives it the cold shoulder – turning the almost completely closed metal side of the house toward the sun. The solar panel on the roof, on the other hand, always directly faces the sun and busily supplies electricity – more than the house and its energy-saving devices can use. During the summer Disch feeds the surplus energy into the local electricity grid. Overall, the Heliotrop produces five times as much electrical energy as it uses each year.
The solar architect plans soon to put his concept of the “plus-energy house” into practice in a housing area in Freiburg. And he intends to do this at affordable prices. “It’s still maintained that solar, energy-saving construction doesn’t pay. Yet we want to show that it’s possible – through intelligent planning – not only to save money, but even to make a profit.” Disch points to the tubular solar collectors that not only provide safety as balcony railings but also heat the shower water.
A few kilometers away, a hydrogen-based system is meeting the year-round energy needs of a family of three. The occupants of this energy-self-sufficient solar house, a research project by the Freiburg Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems, burn solar-generated hydrogen for cooking and heating. Their electricity is supplied by photovoltaic units and a fuel cell.
What has been achieved here, namely “disconnecting” a house from the electricity and gas networks, is clearly too expensive for the “man in the street”. The higher investment costs for a passive house are recouped within a few years as a result of the lower energy costs. But if you want to reach the plus-energy standard, and decide to mount a photovoltaic installation on your roof, you won’t be able to reduce your building costs below 2,000 marks a square metre of living space, even taking into account federal and state subsides. This figure is considered the yardstick for cheap building. Accordingly, Hans Erhorn of the Fraunhofer Institute for Construction Physics in Stuttgart considers it realistic – as in the car industry – to aim for a “three-litre house,” a building which only requires a maximum of three litres of heating oil a year per square metre, compared with the figure of 30 litres achieved by houses built in the 1970s. “If we succeed in making the low-energy house the norm, we’ll have accomplished a great deal,” says Hans Erhorn, who believes that ecological building will only really make a breakthrough when it pays for the majority of house buyers.
Hubert Fritz is also working towards this goal. New settlement concepts, small building plots, and jointly used technology are intended to make sustainable construction affordable – without any concessions on quality. Nevertheless, we still have a long way to go until we can build cheap, intelligent, recyclable houses that need no energy input. Hubert Fritz will have to spend a few more nights thinking up new ideas.
7. Answer the questions to part II:
1. Was Hubert Fritz successful in making an “intelligent house” in Rosenheim? Give ground to your answer.
2. What does he appeal for?
3. Does Rolf Disch share all the ideas of Hubert Fritz?
4. Has Rolf Disch succeeded in building a solar house according to his construction philosophy?
5. Can you describe Heliotrop?
6. Is it a “zero-energy house”, a “low-energy house” or a “plus-energy house”? Explain why.
7. What project is Disch planning to realize in the near future?
8. Does Disch think that “plus-energy houses” can make a profit?
9. Do you believe he will manage to realize his project?
10. What is another example of an energy-self-sufficient solar house described in the text?
11. What supplies electricity there?
12. What is faster to recoup: the higher investment costs for a “passive house” or for a “plus-energy house”?
13. What figure is considered to be the yardstick in cheap building?
14. What is more realistic to aim for according to Hans Erhorn?
15. What will help to make sustainable construction affordable?
8. Decide whether the following statements are true or false according to the text:
1. Hubert Fritz is a famous German economist.
2. “Plus-energy houses” are small power plants that feed more electricity into the grid over a year than they take out.
3. The planners and construction firms are unanimous about the materials that will enable them to achieve low-energy consumption levels.
4. For Hubert Fritz the best construction material is wood.
5. Germany is a centre of wooden house building.
6. The windows open when the air conditioning goes off in an “intelligent house”.
7. Rolf Disch is on the same wavelength as Hubert Fritz on the point of using only one building material.
8. The Heliotrop produces 3 times as much electrical energy as it uses each year.
9. Rolf Disch is a designer of a hydrogen-based system meeting the year-round needs of a family of three.
10. Energy-self-sufficient solar houses are affordable for the “man in the street.”
11. Architects and construction firms have already succeeded in making the low-energy houses the norm.
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