Energy-efficient renovation: planning and partners |

Energy-efficient renovation: what, when, with whom?

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08.06.2022 | 3 minutes

For financial reasons, many private owners of apartment buildings decide to carry out the energy-efficient renovation of their property in several stages. The question of the correct order in which to conduct the work then arises. Should you begin with better insulation or with the installation of a climate-friendly heating or photovoltaic system? And who can advise you on how to plan and finance your renovation project?

The condition of the building determines the renovation plan

From an energy point of view, it is best to renovate your apartment building all at once. If this is not sensible for organizational, financial or tax reasons, you’ll need to prioritize the work. There is no general rule here but the condition of your building will often determine where you start. The most important thing with staggered renovations is that they are carried out systematically. Unfortunately, in practice homeowners often renew the heating system followed by the roof and windows, only to delay insulating the façade for financial reasons. This is why it is important you have a good overview of the condition of your building and, based on a reliable survey and the advice of a specialized company, to create a detailed roadmap for your renovation.

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Two people planning the energy-efficient renovation of an apartment building.

Who determines the condition of the building?

Various independent bodies help landlords analyze the condition of the building:

GEAK and GEAK Plus: a combination of analysis and renovation plan

Do you want to know how energy-efficient your apartment block is, where there is a need to take action, what options you have and what costs you can expect? The GEAK will probably get you the information you need the fastest. The GEAK is the Cantonal Energy Certificate for Buildings and therefore standard throughout Switzerland. It informs about the energy efficiency of the building envelope and the overall energy efficiency, providing the basis for potential renovation decisions and for any grant applications.Unlike other labels, GEAK does not only certify exemplary constructions. Instead, it functions as an energy efficiency label based on the traffic-light system. There are seven energy classes from A to G based on the building envelope and the overall energy efficiency:

energy classes energy classes

The four-page report by a certified expert contains key information about the building in question. The costs charged by experts vary depending on the complexity of the construction to be analyzed. For a single-family house, they are usually less than CHF 1,000. However, the GEAK association itself recommends that you obtain several offers from different experts. Most cantons and some municipalities also provide subsidies for obtaining these offers.
In addition to the classic GEAK, a GEAK Plus report also offers concrete recommendations on how to improve a building’s energy efficiency, including the following:

  • Recommendations for energy efficiency improvements specifically tailored to your apartment building
  • Suggestions on how to complete the renovation in stages
  • Prioritization of the measures, according to the owners’ individual situation, from a minimum package of measures to modernization in line with the Minergie-P standard
  • Up to three variants concerning the scope of modernization, from the minimum package of measures to full renovation in line with the Minergie-P standard
  • An estimate of the costs of renovation, maintenance and how much operating costs would be saved
  • A list of subsidies so that you can calculate the effective capital required
  • Expert support and unbiased advice when choosing the renovation measures

The GEAK experts are independent and calculate their costs individually. The GEAK therefore advises people to obtain several offers and to check exactly what they cover. Guide values: The GEAK Plus report for the apartment building in our example (built in 1976, 8 units, conventional construction, well-documented) should cost around CHF 3,000. You will pay more if matters are more complex due to partial renovations or if there is no consumption data to hand. GEAK Plus provides a professional, neutral and expert basis on which to make the decisions, planning and calculations required for an energy-efficient renovation. The GEAK Plus is not your only option, nor is it better or worse than other offers. However, it is standard throughout Switzerland, certified, recognized by all cantons and transparently documented.

Who can help you with financing?

The detailed analysis and planning with energy experts means you have a rough estimate of the renovation costs and when they will be incurred. These can be paid for using own funds or added to your mortgage. Whether and up to what amount debt financing is possible depends on the loan-to-value ratio of your property. In total, the new mortgage may not exceed 75 percent of the property value for investment properties. The mortgage must remain affordable despite the increase.


Tip 1: “Green mortgages”

When obtaining mortgage offers, look out for special offers for energy-efficient renovations: The UBS key4 mortgages Green Mortgage offers financing that is specifically designed for climate-friendly investment properties, as well as a financial advantage for the borrower.


Tip 2: Subsidies

To make financing easier, eco-friendly construction and renovations are also subsidized at state and cantonal level. However, the specific measures differ depending on the canton or municipality. A good overview of the different subsidies is available here.
Important: construction subsidies are only granted if they are applied for before the renovation work starts.

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Who can be relied upon for a successful renovation?

Once the financing has been secured, the renovation concept is in place and the subsidies have been approved, the renovation work itself can begin. To find an experienced architectural office or craftsman for your energy-efficient renovation, you should take a look at reference projects. It’s also worth asking your energy consultant which construction professionals they’ve already worked with successfully or which general contractors they can recommend.


Tip 3: double GEAK
To determine whether the implemented measures achieve the desired energy savings in the investment property, a double GEAK pass is recommended after completion of the renovation work. This reclassifies the property’s energy efficiency class. The effectiveness of the energy-saving measures can be confirmed by comparing this class with the original classification before the renovation.


Tip 4: ancillary costs
Are you still in the middle of the work and want to get an idea of the effects of the measures taken so far? Here it is worth taking a look at the ancillary costs (assuming the same use of the property).


Every building needs to be renovated after 20 to 30 years of use. This is the ideal moment to drastically reduce energy consumption and replace fossil-fuel systems with those that run on renewable energy. For landlords, the energy-efficient renovation of a building is often a complex matter, making the involvement of experts advisable in many cases. They have the right planning tools and the necessary experience to indicate renovation measures tailored to the specific real estate and the parties involved. The same applies to the financing and project implementation. Ask mortgage experts to explain the different financing options and get professional help when you carry out the renovation.

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