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Sustainable property development: CSMM prioritises revitalization to meet climate change targets

Munich, 16 November 2021. The UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow has come to an end, but the problems are still very much ongoing. And even though it is clear that reducing global warming is the primary goal, participating nations found it difficult to reach a consensus. They weakened the wording on coal-fired power plants, for example, in a last-minute amendment – similar to what is happening in Germany, where negotiations for government’s new climate-focused coalition involve some tough compromises and watered-down targets. For Reiner Nowak, Managing Partner at the Munich-based consulting and architecture firm CSMM, this is a cautionary tale that makes his appeal to the construction industry and decision-makers all the more urgent: “The German building sector accounts for roughly 30 per cent of the direct and indirect emissions and almost 40 per cent of the total energy consumption, making it one of the biggest climate offenders in the country. Of course, we could reduce our carbon footprint significantly if we prioritise the revitalisation of existing buildings as the most sustainable response. One key factor in achieving our agreed climate targets is to retain and renovate the existing building stock.” With its successful track record in renovation – which includes several prestigious design awards! – CSMM’s specialists are already charting the course for a sustainable future.

Looking to the past is not only a smart way to draw the right conclusions for the future; it can also help us – particularly those of us in the construction industry – to harness yesterday’s resources to master tomorrow’s environmental challenges. Germany’s Building Energy Act, which went into effect a year ago, calls for a 70 million tonne reduction in CO2 emissions by 2030. According to the experts at CSMM, the only way the construction industry will achieve these targets is to quadruple the revitalisation rate of existing building stock from one to around four per cent and to start taking a much more critical stance toward demolition: “About 80 per cent of a building’s CO2 equivalent emissions are in the concrete shell,” says Nowak, “a data point that shows just how much potential our industry has to conserve resources and fight climate change.” CSMM’s redevelopment experts don’t just talk the talk. Over the past year, the firm has made a compelling case for converting existing properties with a series of prominent projects in Munich, and these future-proof properties are as architecturally impressive as they are climate-friendly.

OBC – a revitalisation milestone

One of the biggest revitalisation projects in the history of the Bavarian capital has become a paragon of visionary and sustainable office conversions. CSMM’s forward-looking design transformed the 1990s-era Olympia Business Center (OBC) into a state-of-the-art office complex with a ‘green lung’ and Munich’s first ‘co-working canteen’, in addition to spacious open-plan interiors that allow for flexible floorplans. The two-storey extension added at the entrance opens up the property to the ring road using large-scale glazing, while also creating a direct connection to the extensive green spaces outside. This gives the new foyer and the brand-new canteen next door a bright and welcoming atmosphere. Moreover, the Olympia Business Center will now rent to several different businesses rather than one anchor tenant.

Load-bearing substructure at the “Fritz”

The specialist architects at CSMM received the Iconic Award and the German Design Award in 2021 for this innovative revitalisation project in the heart of Munich’s city centre. Known locally as “Fritz”, the building’s concrete shell offers the perfect use case for renovating existing property stock. The existing structure was completely stripped down to its concrete shell, which has a load-bearing capacity that will last well into the future. CSMM’s architects worked closely with planning authorities, not only to ensure that the final product made the best use of the generous space, but also to seek approval of a two-storey extension, which brings the building to eight floors – a new height record for the neighbourhood. By partially enclosing the interior courtyard, tenants have spacious outdoor areas enhanced by balconies, conservatories and terraces. The distinctive 70-degree roof pitch and extensive glazing along the redesigned façade give each floor ample natural light and transform these outdated offices into modern loft-style workplaces.

A new lease of life for Arabella Park

In Munich’s Arabella Park, CSMM’s architects and consultants completely gutted the late 1970s office building of a high-profile insurance company and stripped the façade back to its weight-bearing shell. This allows the developers to harness the grey energy of the existing building and save resources through renovation. Thanks to the new façade and the restructuring of the interior layout, the building has a new, improved lease of life as a hotel. The irregular honeycomb pattern on the façade is a welcome break from the strict geometry of typical office towers.

Renovation trumps demolition at Kustermann Park

For the past ten years, CSMM has been working on the renovation and interior design of certain sections of the Kustermann Park office complex on Munich’s east side. After gutting, renovating and completely redesigning the interiors, the complex will have 75,000 square metres of total office space. CSMM’s architects are doing their part in the fight against climate change by retaining the concrete substructure built 40 years ago – after all, the shell alone accounts for 80 per cent of a property’s CO2 equivalent emissions. The construction industry should do their part as well and make the most of existing concrete structures. CSMM recently completed a roughly 12,500-square-metre section of the complex with eleven fully renovated storeys and two subterranean floors, before handing them over to the new tenants from Munich’s municipal government.

Combatting climate change with construction

Despite all of the enthusiasm surrounding these recently completed projects, CSMM Managing Partner Nowak is quick to point out that this is only the beginning of a broader movement advocating for fewer demolitions and more sustainability. Climate offenders like the construction sector are more likely to adopt more sustainable practices, he says, when architects and developers join forces with local, state and federal authorities – both in terms of building design and in terms of passing new legislation and easing building regulations. Nowak: “If we want to play an active role in shaping the climate-neutral future, there is no way around renovating the existing building stock. It is up to us to continue the work they started at the climate summit – in our minds and in our development projects – or we will never make life truly sustainable.”

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