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May 31, 2023

The German Buildings Energy Act – Mandatory Measures for Non-Residential Buildings

The building sector plays a significant role in Germany's overall energy consumption and currently produces more greenhouse gases than national and European climate protection targets allow. After long debate, the German Bundestag recently passed an amendment to the national Buildings Energy Act (Gebäudeenergiegesetz, GEG). The aim is to gradually end dependence on fossil fuels and reach carbon neutrality in existing buildings by 2045. We outline what owners of non-residential buildings must take into account from 2024 on and highlight the crucial role of software solutions in optimizing building operations.

Uniform Regulations for new and Existing Buildings

The GEG establishes energy requirements for heated or air-conditioned buildings, combining and replacing several prior laws, including the German Energy Saving Ordinance (Energieeinsparverordnung, EnEV), the Renewable Energies Heat Act (Erneuerbare-Energien-Wärmegesetz, EEWärmeG), and the Energy Saving Act (Energieeinsparungsgesetz, EnEG). With few exceptions, the adopted bill impacts all new and existing buildings which are heated or cooled, as well as their heating, cooling, and ventilation systems. Its scope extends to both residential and non-residential structures, including public buildings.

Overview of Key Changes:

  • Minimum building automation requirements: Mandatory for new non-residential buildings (from 1 January 2025 also for existing buildings) to continuously monitor, analyze and optimize energy consumption
  • Heating with renewable energy will be mandatory: Starting in 2024, only heating systems that use at least 65 % renewable energy may be installed in new buildings within new development areas. Transitional periods are foreseen for existing buildings and new constructions outside these designated areas
  • No immediate replacement required for existing heating systems: In cases of malfunction, broken gas or oil heating systems may undergo repairs, with designated transition periods allowed for replacement
  • Incentive programs and cost allocation for heating system replacements: Costs can be proportionally passed on to tenants, and up to 30 % can be reimbursed through grants

General Requirements for new Buildings

With the GEG, the Federal Government has incorporated the EU Buildings Directive (EPBD) and the Energy Efficiency Directive (EED) into national law. As per these directives, all new buildings must be designed as nearly zero-energy buildings. The methodology involves establishing reference buildings, ensuring that the annual primary energy demand of a non-residential building for heating, hot water, ventilation, and cooling does not exceed 55 % of the demand of a reference object. Electricity from renewable sources generated in direct spatial connection with a building under construction may be considered when calculating the annual primary energy requirement. Furthermore, new buildings must adhere to specific criteria for minimum thermal insulation, the minimization of thermal bridges, air tightness and thermal insulation in summer. These requirements aim to create a comfortable living and working environment while achieving necessary energy savings. Verification of compliance with these requirements is mandatory through an energy performance certificate.

General Requirements for Existing Buildings

The Act outlines retrofitting obligations for existing buildings under specific conditions. These obligations encompass:

  • Insulation of top floor ceilings in unheated attics
  • Insulation of heat distribution pipes in unheated rooms
  • The obligation to replace oil and gas heating systems older than 30 years, excluding low-temperature boilers, condensing boilers, and heating systems with a rated output of less than 4 kilowatts or more than 400 kilowatts

Starting January 2024, new building requirements apply if the contiguous floor area increases by more than 250 m² or surpasses 100 % of the existing building's floor area. Specific exemptions, such as listed buildings or small structures with a floor area of up to 50 square meters, exist. Additionally, an energy performance certificate becomes mandatory for all heated or cooled existing buildings that are re-let or sold.

General Building Automation Requirements

While much discussion has centered on the new version of the GEG regarding heating with renewable energy sources, it is crucial not to overlook the minimum requirements set for building automation in the heating and cooling of non-residential buildings. Starting January 1, 2024, new non-residential buildings must be equipped with a building automation system of B level or better, along with a dedicated energy monitoring technology. For existing non-residential buildings with a heating or cooling capacity exceeding 290 kW, retrofitting with such a system is mandated by December 31, 2024 the latest. Until then, the requirement for regular inspections does not apply if an automation system with automation level B or better can be demonstrated.

The automation system must meet the following minimum requirements :

  • Seamless communication between networked building systems and other applications, irrespective of manufacturer, technology, or device type
  • Data access through common, freely configurable interfaces, enabling independent analysis regardless of company and manufacturer
  • Continuous monitoring and analysis of the consumption of all major energy sources and building systems
  • Identification of efficiency losses and improvement potential for technical building management, ensuring energy-efficient, economical, and safe building operation

New Regulation from 2024: Mandatory Use of Renewable Energy for Heating

The recent amendment to the GEG, also known as the "heating law", introduces a mandatory shift to renewable energy for heating and hot water. Starting January 1, 2024, any newly installed heating system must utilize a minimum of 65 % renewable energy. Initially applicable to new buildings in new development areas, transitional periods are outlined for existing buildings and new constructions outside these areas, aligned with local authority heating plans. According to the German Heat Planning Act, cities with over 100 000 inhabitants must submit these plans by mid-2026, and all other municipalities by 2028. By 2045, the mandate extends to exclusively heating all buildings in Germany with renewable energy.

The regulation allows for a diverse range of technologies and hybrid solutions. The installation of new oil or gas heating systems is still possible after January 1, 2024, under certain conditions. In the absence of a local heating plan, the fuel mix must progressively include green fuels until it reaches 100 % biogas, biofuel, or approved hydrogen by 2045. Once a municipal heating plan is established, installation is only permitted for "H2-ready" gas heating systems and if the municipal heating plan provides for a corresponding supply network.

Existing oil and gas heating systems are permitted to be used or repaired until the end of 2044, provided they are not older than 30 years. In case of irreparable damage, during specific transitional periods, a used heating system that does not meet the 65 % requirement may be installed.

Pathway for climate-friendly heating in non-residential buildings, effective from January 1, 2024. Source: BMWK, 09/2023.

How aedifion can Provide Support

The German Building Energy Act sets extensive requirements for energy standards and the use of renewable energy in buildings. To navigate these demands and avoid penalties, innovative solutions must be found for commercial non-residential buildings. Through the aedifion cloud platform for digital operational optimization, we introduce smart energy efficiency to any portfolio, while seamlessly integrating buildings into the heating transition.

We ensure efficient system operation and data sovereignty:

The new GEG establishes stringent minimum requirements for building automation in non-residential buildings. The aedifion cloud platform ensures maximum data transparency and optimal system operation, helping owners to meet these requirements. Our technology fosters manufacturer-independent communication among individual system components via open interfaces, providing stakeholders with complete data transparency. Continuous monitoring of energy consumption identifies real-time improvement areas, facilitating targeted corrective actions.

We sustainably reduce energy consumption and CO2 emissions:

For both new and existing buildings, aedifion enhances energy performance through a simple digital upgrade. Our software employs artificial intelligence to continuously identify potential savings, enabling demand-based control of building operations. Predictive control takes into account not only heating, cooling and ventilation data, but also external factors such as weather forecasts, outdoor temperatures and occupancy. As a result, energy consumption and CO2 emissions can be reduced by an average of 22 %, and in many cases by up to 40 %, while tenants benefit from optimal indoor air quality and significantly reduced ancillary costs.

We enable data-driven modernization and retrofit roadmaps:

By optimizing operations continuously, aedifion detects inefficiencies and potential weaknesses in building operations early on. This information is particularly valuable for existing buildings, informing decisions on targeted modernization and retrofit measures, such as system replacements, heat pump installations, or building envelope insulation. Data-driven decision-making avoids unnecessary investments, extends system lifespans, and preserves long-term property value.

We help save costs and stabilize electricity grids:

As renewable energy generation fluctuates, the aedifion cloud platform empowers buildings to actively manage their load, dynamically adjusting heating energy consumption. This isespecially advantageous for commercial buildings due to their high energy consumption and flexibility. By doing so, we contribute significantly to stabilizing the electricity grid and facilitating the transition away from fossil fuels.

Have your portfolio optimized now and join us on the journey towards a carbon-neutral building stock!

Note: Our research andassessments are based on the current state of the law and do not constitute valid legal advice.