Switzerland has taken its first steps to becoming a "2,000-watt society" – one in that cuts the daily average energy consumption of individuals from 5kW to 2kW.
Two residential complexes meeting the standard have already been built, and another is under construction in a suburb of Bern. This is called the Stöckacker SÃ¼d complex, and it consists of three buildings of five to six storeys that together contain 146 apartments.
The idea is not that everybody needs to become vegan– Renato Bomio, City of Bern
The buildings, which will be completed next year, are made from recycled concrete and insulated to the standard of Minergie-P-Eco standard, which requires apartment blocks to emit only 38 kWh/mÂ² a year.
According to Swissinfo, the foreign service of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, future residents of Stöckacker SÃ¼d will have to accept some restrictions to their lifestyle.
Their living space will be less than 60 square metres per person and they will have to share 27 parking spaces for each building, of which 15 will be reserved for disabled users. But they will have 510 bicycle parking spaces and proximity to public transport.
This does not seem to have discouraged tenants. Renato Bomio, head of housing projects for the city of Bern, said: "When we presented this project, a lot of people told us we wouldn’t find any tenants. But in the space of a few months we got more applications than there were apartments available."
He added that tenants may have to make some lifestyle adjustments. "The idea is not that everybody needs to become vegan, give up everything and be totally compatible with the 2000-watt society. But it is important to raise the residents’ awareness of opportunities to reduce energy consumption, for example by using appliances that have optimal energy efficiency," he said.
The adoption of the 2,000-watt standard, which is recognised by a certificate from the Federal Office of Energy, is expected to become the norm for new housing developments. More than 100 municipalities have included it in their by-laws or energy strategies, and in some places like ZÃ¼rich, Zug and Aarau, the local population have voted in favour adopting it as a policy.
The standard is also being taken up by private developers. Heinrich Gugerli, project head of the 2000-watt area resource centre set up by the Federal Office of Energy, comments: "The 2000-watt area certificate provides several advantages for investors.Unlike other major building projects, it is easier to get a building permit from local government for such areas.
Generally, they are more likely to be supported by the locals when projects like these get put to a popular vote."
At present only 2% of Swiss residents are thought to meet the standard.
Photograph: West Erlenmatt in Basel, completed last October, is one of two schemes to meet the 2000-watt standard so far. (swissinfo/losinger-marazzi.ch)