Following the traces of the Urban Transition Lab 131 – Part IV Energy

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We have come to the last part of our blog series about the Urban Transition Lab 131. The real world lab project Urban Transition Lab 131 was launched under the umbrella of the framework project District Future – Urban Lab. Since 2015 when the District Future was launched, scientists and citizens have the possibility to work together to develop and test measures for a (more) sustainable urban development in the Karlsruhe district Oststadt. With this blog series we want to think back over the activities and experiences of the Urban Transition Lab’s four projects.

An article by Vanessa Kügler & Volker Stelzer. Translation by Sophie Dauenhauer

In the previous articles we already presented the topics sustainable consumption, mobility and social affairs and spaces. Finally, we will talk about the exciting and current topic energy.

Turning on the lights in the evening and putting the shopping into the fridge, switching on the heating in winter or having the possibility of a hot bath at any time –  the availability of electricity, heat, light and water is an important element of our everyday lives and fundamental for the functionality of our cities. Energy is one of the most important resources that has two major disadvantages: its availability is not infinite, and the generation implies a lot of consequences for our planet. These are the reasons why the consumption and use of energy have become a much-discussed topic in politics, economy as well as in society and science.

“Cities are resource-hungry and produce too much CO2. We can change this: by using innovative technologies and renewable energies and trying out a new way of life that works without the excessive waste of goods and resources.”

(Goal of the key topic Urban energy landscapes)

Producing and using energy locally

In keeping with the motto “New ideas about energy”, participants of the BürgerForum (citizen’s forum) “Sustainable Oststadt – Future in citizens’ hands” collected proposals for energy saving measures in the Oststadt. Ideas like optimized heating systems with renewable heating and regenerative electricity, energy autarky of residential blocks or an energy consultancy were contributed during the forum. It quickly became clear that, in order to coordinate such measures, a comprehensive energy concept for the Oststadt is needed. This multi-level concept considers the building and ownership structures as well as the patterns of use, and at the same time it demonstrates concrete energy saving and refitting measures for every individual building.

An expert group of scientists from different institutes of the KIT (ITAS, IIP, EIFER, fbta) got together in the R131-project “Energiekonzept” (energy concept) to further develop the ideas from the citizens’ forum and to design and implement the energy concept approach. Moreover, the project cooperated with the city of Karlsruhe, the Karlsruhe energy and climate protection agency (KEK), Haus & Grund Karlsruhe, and involved lectures and seminars.  Now it was time to use these contacts and to start implementing the ideas from the citizens’ forum.

Data and more data  but never losing sight of the building stock!

In view of existing urban quarters that have grown over decades, like the Oststadt in Karlsruhe, it is important to take a closer look at the old building stock’s state of repair and the energetic state because:

  • The building stock is responsible for about 50% of the material use and the energy consumption
  • The heat supply in buildings causes up to 30% of the direct greenhouse gas emissions in Germany
  • Space heating makes up 70% of the energy consumption in residential buildings.

The Urban Transition Lab-project “energy concept” focused following questions:

  • How much energy is consumed by the buildings in the Oststadt?
  • What are the possibilities for reducing the consumption of non-renewably generated energy?
  • Where does potential for renewable energy exist and how can we use it?

To answer these questions, it was necessary to collect information about the individual buildings and their demand and consumption of energy. In a word: data – a lot of it. The energetic condition of the building is influenced by several factors: age of the building, type of use, floors, form, building space and capacity as well as the material that was used in the building (e.g. concrete, bricks, timber, clay or roof tiles) are playing an important role. Information about all these aspects had to be collected before they were entered in a database and got analyzed.

Important contributions to this complete survey were made by the seminar “energy efficiency in the building stock of Karlsruhe Oststadt”, which took place at the Institute for Industrial Production (IIP) in the winter term 2015/16. The students of the seminar were responsible for data acquisition in the Oststadt, completed the city’s previous data basis about the building stock in the quarter and calculated the energy balance for different building types.

Based on the city of Karlsruhe’s 3D database, the data was used to develop a detailed 3D building model of the Oststadt’s existing building structure that contains spatial information about more than 2600 buildings. This model enables for example to calculate the energy demand of a building, the material that was used for building it and even precise key figures like the water demand.

Starting small- Owners and Users as key factors

Not only the buildings but also the ownership structures were taken into consideration, because their motivation for using renewable energies is an important factor. But there was little information about the owner’s willingness regarding energetic building modernisation – especially of private owners, which represent about 75% in the Oststadt. Different kinds of surveys (online, by telephone and on paper) made it possible to create profiles. The analysis of the surveys has revealed that the information about energy issues is for the moment more important for strengthening the energy awareness than specific calculations about energy consumption. The fact that even small adjustments of the user’s behaviour (e.g. changing the heating operation to summer mode, nighttime reduction yes/no) can achieve energy savings, was seen as a motivation. Furthermore, the survey also showed that it is easier to save “visible” energies than saving “invisible” energies. Hence, it is easier for the residents to use less water (apparent consumption) than saving electricity (non-apparent).

An energy check for the Oststadt

In 2015 the energy consulting proposed by the Oststadt citizens was set up in the Future Space. In cooperation with the Karlsruhe energy and climate protection agency (KEK) and the consumer advice center, cost-free consultations about the topics energy and climate were offered and an overview about KEK’s energy checks were offered. In addition to this, the energy consulting offered information about energetic building modernisation as well as their financing and funding possibilities, public speeches and direct contact to specialists. With the energy consulting, a local contact point was created to help the citizens of the Oststadt making the first steps into a sustainable lifestyle regarding energy and climate and to support the optimization of their consumption of electricity, heating or water.

One of those speeches took place at the theme night – future energy in the Future Space. Scientists and citizens had the chance to talk about the results of the surveys, mapping and the details of the building analysis. The posters of this night can be found under the link below this article.

The energy project of the Urban Transition Lab is also known beyond the local borders. At the EU Sustainable Energy Week 2017 (EUSEW) the project had the chance to present its work and to discuss with a professional audience from politics and science.

And what’s next?

Energy is a subject which will continue accompanying us in the Oststadt and that will deal intensively with climate protection.

We are open for new ideas and in search of active people who want to help us making the Oststadt more sustainable.

Do you have questions, wishes or do you want to realise a project? Visit us at the Future Space or send a message to Volker Stelzer (

This was the last part of our blog series about the activities of the Urban Transition Lab 131 and its projects. We would like to thank our intern Vanessa Kügler for the thorough research.

For further reading (in German):

Poster 1 „Energieeffizienz als wichtiges Gebäudemerkmal – Ergebnisse einer Befragung von Vermietern in der Karlsruher Oststadt“

Poster 2 „Energiebedarf und gebundene Ressourcen im Gebäudebestand der Oststadt“

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