What is a Minergie apartment?

Minergie is a Swiss quality label for low-energy buildings. This standard is a guarantee of quality and, above all, low energy consumption, presented in a format that the public can understand. Anyone who wants to buy or rent a Minergie apartment should consider the following.

The chemical formula CO2 feels like an abstract notion. However, more and more people are aware that too much CO2 in the earth’s atmosphere is harmful to the planet. CO2 contributes to global warming: a significant quantity is produced by traffic, but building operation is also a factor.

Experts estimate that building heating is responsible for about 33% of CO2 emissions in Switzerland. In the 1990s, Switzerland started to take countermeasures. Before then, building and energy laws were relatively relaxed. It was not unusual for older apartment blocks to be extremely wasteful in terms of energy consumption during the winter months. Many older buildings use more than 20 litres of heating oil per square metre of living space per year.

The Swiss cantons have revised and strengthened building and energy regulations over the past 20 years. A particular milestone was the introduction of the Swiss Minergie label in 1998. This was initiated by private citizens but was later crucially supported by the cantons as the recognised standard for low-energy housing in Switzerland. Minergie is an officially registered trademark and is operated by a private association.

Swiss success story

‘A total of about 51,000 buildings now have the Minergie certificate,’ says Andreas Meyer Primavesi, CEO of Minergie. But what can buyers or tenants expect when they move into a Minergie apartment? First, the building is characterised by low energy usage. Both new builds and renovations with the Minergie label score significantly better in terms of energy use than other buildings. Second, Minergie buildings use renewable energies and zero fossil fuels. In other words, if you build a house without this certificate, it complies only with the normal building laws and standards.

In step with climate goals

‘A Minergie property comes with a guarantee that it complies with current and future Swiss climate goals,’ emphasises Meyer Primavesi. The energy consumption requirements and the corresponding technical standards are designed such that fossil fuels are no longer required.

What are the specific characteristics of Minergie apartments? Minergie properties are generally designed with an automatic ventilation system and make greater demands on thermal insulation in summer (no overheating during high summer). A further indication of quality is that they constantly measure energy consumption. The Minergie association also places great emphasis on high comfort levels – thanks to the ventilation systems, these buildings have an excellent indoor environment. A continuous exchange of air in the building is an undeniable benefit during this current pandemic.

Minergie: overview of all labels

Minergie covers a range of services, labels and quality standards. A distinction is made between the following certificates:

In addition to the Minergie standard for new builds and renovations, which has been acknowledged since 1998, there are also the Minergie-P and Minergie-A labels.

  • Minergie-P has higher demands on the building shell and promises an even lower threshold for energy consumption – effectively, heating is almost no longer required.
  • Minergie-A is the standard for maximum self-sufficiency. Buildings certified to Minergie-A function as net energy-producing buildings, as they produce more energy than they need.
  • Minergie-ECO: anyone who wants to enhance these labels with an ecological building aspect should opt for the ECO label.

The question of cost

When it comes to ecology and sustainability, Minergie offers many benefits and guarantees a high standard. Furthermore, adherence to the quality standard is monitored regularly; for example, through spot checks during construction of a Minergie property. From a technical perspective, some additional costs of Minergie buildings have to be taken into consideration (for example, higher quality windows, a better building shell, the ventilation and PV system, energy monitoring, etc.). Meyer Primavesi estimates that the additional costs run to an order of magnitude of between 2% and 5%, purely for construction costs, depending on specific circumstances and labels.

As the cost of a new build includes the cost of the building plot, the percentage surcharge is relatively low. A further consideration is that, in general, a higher standard of build does not necessarily cost more – if the builders and architects are experienced and everything is planned carefully from the outset. ‘In return, residents gain significantly in terms of added value,’ says Minergie’s CEO. The energy and operating costs are significantly lower over the years. In addition, there is obviously the gain in comfort and quality, which cannot be expressed in purely monetary terms.

Make sure you are well informed

In summary, Minergie properties are well established in Switzerland and tried and tested. Many private builders, apartment building owners and architects use the term ‘Minergie’ effectively as a synonym for a better environment and sustainable building. Nevertheless, building management companies and, ultimately, residents should also be familiar with the special features. The technical systems must be correctly adjusted and maintained regularly – for example, the filters in the ventilation systems (depending on whether these are operated centrally or per apartment). If you move into a Minergie apartment, you should make sure you are familiar with the details and any operating instructions. When all is said and done, these are important steps towards a higher standard of living and a carbon-free future.