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Zero-energy office building that adapts to the climate opened in Switzerland

Built using mainly renewable and reusable materials, Sonova claims the centre operates carbon-neutrally and requires hardly any building services installations.

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The building largely regulates itself by absorbing heat and releasing it again
The building largely regulates itself by absorbing heat and releasing it again

Hearing solutions provider Sonova Holding has inaugurated one of Switzerland’s first office buildings to be carbon-neutral in its operations. It will accommodate around 180 employees.

 

The new Sonova Wireless Competence Centre in Murten, home to its subsidiary Phonak Communications, aligns with the company’s sustainability programme, whose goals include a continuous reduction of its environmental impact. The entire Sonova Group aims to achieve carbon-neutral operations by the end of 2021

 

Adapting to the climate

 

Sonova claims the centre operates carbon-neutrally and adapts to the outside climate, requiring hardly any building services installations such as heating or ventilation systems.

 

The new office was built using mainly renewable and reusable materials, so that construction-related grey energy could be minimised. Made of a single wythe of climate-neutrally manufactured blocks, the solid façade retains energy and moisture. The building largely regulates itself by absorbing heat and releasing it again when it gets colder outside, the company reports.

 

“As one of Switzerland’s first zero-energy commercial properties, it is part of the world’s first generation of carbon-neutral buildings. This pioneering project is an excellent example of how we are continually reducing the environmental footprint of our business in line with our strategy,” said Arnd Kaldowski, CEO of Sonova.

 

“We are committed to ensuring that the Sonova Group’s entire operations will be carbon-neutral by the end of 2021. With its unique environmental features, innovative spatial design and construction, our Wireless Competence Centre provides an ideal workplace for our colleagues.”

“This pioneering project is an excellent example of how we are continually reducing the environmental footprint of our business in line with our strategy”

The healthy indoor climate is primarily the result of controlled natural ventilation; pure lime putty on the walls and ceilings purifies the air indoors and regulates the atmospheric humidity. Air is refreshed via the windows rather than through ventilation ducts. Controllable ventilation flaps on the windows facilitate the circulation of fresh air.

 

During the summer, the same ventilation flaps cool the building naturally at night. An ambient temperature of between 21°C and 26°C is guaranteed throughout the year. The surface area of the windows is sized precisely to ensure that the building does not heat up excessively when temperatures are warm. The high windows on the façade are designed to admit the maximum amount of natural light, so the use of artificial lighting can be largely avoided.

 

The centre’s photovoltaic array generates 260,000 kilowatt-hours of energy per year, which is a higher amount of renewable and carbon-neutral electricity than is required to run it. This surplus capacity is fed back into the grid and made available to other consumers.

 

Sonova reports the building’s energy requirements are “comfortably below” the limits set by international and Swiss sustainability labels. According to figures supplied by Switzerland’s Federal Office for the Environment, buildings are responsible for around one quarter of CO2 emissions across the country.

 

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