You would expect it to be green, and the International Environment House (IEH) doesn't disappoint. A recent USD 3.1 million retrofit has helped gain it the coveted MINERGIE certificate – a Swiss standard for building materials and energy efficiency excellence.
The IEH is the Geneva home of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). It also hosts a range of other United Nations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) active in the field of environment and sustainable development. It was built in the late 1990s to incorporate the sustainable building features that were current at the time, but its environmental performance was falling behind when measured against the latest regulations and best practice. An audit conducted by the Canton of Geneva led to the decision on the retrofit, funded by the renovation fund of the Building Foundation for International Organization (FIPOI), a joint Swiss federal and Geneva cantonal body whose purpose is to make premises available to intergovernmental organizations.
With waste management already covered (UNEP having implemented a separation and recycling system in the IEH from the outset), the main focus of the retrofit was on reducing energy and water consumption. Its achievements were striking. A new heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system and improved insulation has helped to reduce energy consumption by 58%. Further savings in emissions are ensured by the IEH opting for the local electricity utility company's green all-hydroelectricity tariff. Meanwhile, water savings amount to almost 25%, thanks to the installation of low water consumption taps and toilets throughout the entire building, combined with savings attributable to the new HVAC system.
The USD 3.1 million investment will thus produce significant cost savings as well as sustainability improvements. The building has gained its green certificate – and the International Environment House is living up to its name.