New UNFCCC HQ - renovations reduce emissions

Wed, 05/02/14

The new headquarters of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) on the UN Campus in Bonn, Germany, has seen a 60% reduction in its electricity consumption following extensive renovations.

UNFCCC moved into the newly renovated “Altes Abgeordnetenhochhaus” in September 2013, after the German government invested over EUR 90 million (over USD 120 million) to improve the building and its environmental performance. As a result of the renovations, the building now has: photovoltaic panels on the roof, ventilation flaps and sun-blinds that open and close automatically depending on sunshine intensity and indoor temperatures, and lighting that is operated by motion and illumination sensors. Electricity consumption is now only 40% of what it used to be. All of the building’s remaining energy needs are met by 100% renewable resources. A hydroelectric plant and wind farm provide any additional electricity to the HQ, as well as all other UN facilities situated in Bonn.

There are many other sustainability features that contribute to the building’s new efficiency. Heating and cooling is optimized through extreme insulation of exterior walls and windows. Temperature is controlled through a centralized, natural ventilation system. Modern hydro-geo-thermal technology, using filtrate water from the banks of the nearby river Rhine, helps regulate temperatures in the building – cooling it in summer, and heating it in winter. As a result, central parts of the building meet zero-emissions standards.

The renovation process was carried out in an environmentally responsible way. Waste materials were separated according to whether they could be reused and recycled, whilst hazardous components were treated and safely disposed of. The materials used to construct the new building were selected based on strict environmental and durability criteria. Window frames are made of local wood and interior walls out of clay - a traditional but forgotten material that naturally keeps indoor humidity and acoustics in the comfort zone.

Dragoslav Jovanovic, Chief of the Procurement and General Services Unit within the UNFCCC secretariat explains:

“We are very proud to work in such a great building. It’s an exemplar of green features and provides a comfortable and modern working environment. When you consider it was originally built in the 1950s, you are amazed by what state-of-the-art rehabilitation can achieve. It’s also very important for the local community that despite all the changes, the exterior appearance of this former parliament building has been preserved.”

Sadly, the new headquarters cannot accommodate all UNFCCC staff and so for those based outside the UN Campus, a new building, with even higher eco-standards, is underway and due to complete in 2017.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited the UN Campus in Bonn last week (31 Jan 2014) and spoke to UN staff in the new UNFCCC headquarters building. He called on staff to rise to three core challenges: To help implement the existing Millennium Development Goals, help design the new Sustainable Development Goals and help conclude the 2015 global climate change agreement.


UNFCCC HQ Power Meter

Meter at main entrance of new UNFCCC HQ building, showing current PV power generation as well as aggregate PV power generation and indicative GHG emission savings since start of operation (July 2013).

Categories: Buildings