Current socio-political developments and the current situation on the housing market pose major challenges for housing and construction policy. A further increase in the population is to be expected in the coming years, especially in large cities and metropolitan areas due to the trend towards emigration from rural regions, immigration from abroad and the increasing number of refugees. The doubling of the demand for living space in the last 50 years has also led to an enormous increase in the demand for apartments. The current BBSR housing market forecast for 2030 shows a need for around 270,000 new apartments per year for the period between 2015 and 2020, in addition to the pent-up demand for the years of insufficient new construction activity. Since housing is one of the basic human needs, every effort must be made to meet the high demand for affordable and needs-based housing and to keep construction and planning costs low.
Urgently wanted: affordable apartments with high quality
The right to be provided with affordable housing is a fundamental right of the population. There are various approaches to making housing more affordable again, with the promotion of new construction activities – in addition to social housing promotion and support for low-income households with housing costs – being a central strategy. But not only more apartments are required, specific demand groups also require a differentiated range of housing, for example for the increasing number of single households, for young people in training or for different (living) cultures. Due to the demographic change, the demand for age-appropriate, low- barrier apartments is also increasing. There are also other requirements for energy efficiency and sustainability of new construction projects. This leads to sometimes very high technical, planning and construction standards in residential construction, which result in an increase in construction costs. One of the current challenges in the housing market is therefore to find ways to reduce construction and subsequently rental costs. The Alliance for Affordable Housing and Building has made this its task.
Alliance for affordable housing and construction
In the summer of 2014, the federal government, states, municipalities and associations joined forces to meet the current challenges on the housing market by joining forces for affordable housing and construction. It is divided into five working groups: active real estate policy, social housing promotion and other investment incentives, building cost reduction commission, age-appropriate conversion in the district and social and climate-friendly living and building.
Affordable construction is a prerequisite for affordable housing
In recent years, there has been a continuous increase in construction costs. The construction price index of the Federal Statistical Office shows that the construction prices for newly built residential buildings in February 2016 increased by 1.7% compared to February 2015.
The construction price index
The construction price index is determined quarterly by the Federal Statistical Office based on surveys in the construction industry. It reflects the long-term development of prices for specific construction work (base year 2010 = 100).
In order to analyze the development of construction costs and to identify cost drivers in residential construction, the Commission for the Reduction of Construction Costs (BKSK) was founded as one of the working groups of the Alliance for Affordable Housing and Building. Your task is to show the possibilities for increasing the economic efficiency of construction. Above all, “oversized”, price-driving standards for equipment and technology and material costs as well as requirements of building regulations and complex procedures are to be checked. However, the requirements of sustainability and environmental protection as well as qualitative and social aspects of housing construction must not be forgotten. In November 2015, the BKSK presented central recommendations for action, concrete proposals for measures and a report from the building cost reduction commission, which were presented to the public in March 2016.
Cost drivers are not always cost traps
Even if the ultimate goal is to save on construction and housing costs, a minimum quality should not be foregone. Although this results in a short-term reduction in costs, in the long term it causes predominantly negative effects with sometimes high follow-up costs and would therefore meet with little acceptance in the medium term. For example, doing without green roofs would reduce construction costs by 4%. However, the associated loss of seepage areas and urban green structures would have negative effects on the urban microclimate and the environment. Noise protection measures also increase the construction costs by approx. 6%, but this additional investment is always worthwhile in terms of protection against permanent street noise and your own healthy living . The reduction in car parking spaces, which accounts for around 10% of the total construction costs (average €250/m2), would definitely be worthwhile and would in turn have positive effects in terms of promoting the increased use of public transport.
The public transport
Local public transport (ÖPNV) includes all means of public transport (ÖV) as part of the basic service on roads, rails and water in the local area. These are, for example, train, bus or ferry. A well-developed public transport network with appropriate intervals reduces the use of one’s own car and thus reduces pollutant emissions and land use.
With all possible savings measures, however, the costs must always be considered in the life cycle . So not only the acquisition and construction costs are decisive, but also the operating and maintenance costs as well as the disposal and recycling costs of the product or the materials. In the following, five current positions for saving construction costs, which are also presented in the BKSK report, are critically examined:
1.Reduction of standards and regulations
Even laypeople can clearly see that higher equipment standards and material qualities as well as increased requirements with regard to the design of the building shell (e.g. energy quality) and the interior design (e.g. underfloor heating, number of sockets, etc.) lead to higher construction costs. Nevertheless, it is important that buildings – with a target average useful life of 50 to 100 years – are constructed to a high technical standard and that both ecological and social aspects of sustainability are taken into account. Do you remember the EU regulation that specified how crooked cucumbers can be? The norms and rules that you have to observe when building may sometimes seem similarly superfluous. But they are mostly important and necessary. The issue of barrier-free construction is a good example of this: the requirements regarding the removal or reduction of barriers increase construction costs by around 20%. Nevertheless, it is extremely important – not only in view of the demographic change – that barrier-free houses and apartments are built, since subsequent adaptation or upgrading would cause far higher costs. Therefore, it is always important to weigh up whether the reduction or relaxation of certain provisions would actually have positive effects in the long term and not just bring implementation and cost relief in the short term.
When developing and expanding standards, attention should always be paid to practical relevance and an integral approach involving the cooperation of different specialist areas. International norms and standards that were developed purely on the basis of scientific studies should always be critically reviewed with regard to their suitability for use and their follow-up costs. Incidentally, the EU also checked critically – and abolished the Cucumber Ordinance in 2009.
2. Degree of mechanization of new buildings
Residential buildings today have a much higher degree of mechanization than 50 years ago. In particular, this has to do with fundamental social developments and the resulting demands on housing. A simple example is the required number of sockets in a new building, which is much higher today than it was just a few decades ago. Social and ecological aspects also play a role in the mechanization of new buildings: Technical solutions to reduce barriers or assistive technology systems help older people to be able to live independently in their homes for as long as possible. Additional systems in the field of regenerative energies are helping to achieve the government’s ambitious energy and climate policy goals. Increasing demands in the technical area, however, lead to rising costs and increased planning effort, which sometimes necessitates a large number of additional specialist planning. However, these are not always accompanied by an increase in the effectiveness and efficiency of the technologies used. It is therefore necessary to critically examine which technical requirements should actually apply to all new buildings and which should only apply to some or in special cases. Increased technical equipment standards, which have a general social or energy policy benefit but have to be financed by the residents themselves, should be promoted with appropriate grants.
3. Energy efficiency standards
Measures to increase energy efficiency and climate protection increase the level of mechanization and thus the construction and equipment costs, especially in the area of heating and ventilation systems. The Energy Saving Ordinance defines minimum energy requirements that every new building must meet in the future in order to achieve the energy policy goal of a climate-neutral building stock by 2050. However, the resulting increased proportion of construction costs for achieving energy standards in recent years is entirely justified because it has led to a significant reduction in CO2 emissions. A reversal of this development would significantly increase operating costs on the one hand and emissions on the other, thereby jeopardizing the federal government’s climate protection goals.
4. Unification of building law
The heterogeneous structure of the 16 different building codes of the federal states increases the time required for research and planning activities and often requires additional expert reports, which increases the costs. The standardization and adaptation of the complex building law to a model building code would save a lot of money, but it must not be forgotten that the concrete provisions of the building law have to be adapted to the respective site-specific situation. Specific bottlenecks in the housing market must not lead to standards being reduced nationwide. Probably the best example of the fact that nationwide uniform solutions and recommendations cannot work is the Parking Space Ordinance): municipal parking space obligations lead to expensive underground car parks, especially in metropolitan areas.
Parking space ordinances regulate how many parking spaces for cars and bicycles must be set up when a new building is built on the property or nearby. The number of prescribed parking spaces depends on the use of the building and the number of users (e.g. determined depending on the number of residential units). The specifications are partly based on technical and statistical knowledge, such as e.g. B. the degree of motorization (ratio between the number of motor vehicles and inhabitants).
Therefore, in large cities and areas that are well connected to the public transport network, consideration should be given to relaxing or adapting the parking space ordinance to the respective situation. In Hamburg, for example, the obligation to provide car parking spaces for new construction projects was abolished in 2013. In Berlin, too, there is only an obligation to provide parking spaces for the disabled and sufficient parking space for bicycles (BauO Bln §50) . However, people in rural areas or smaller towns are usually still dependent on their own cars, which is why parking spaces should be achieved in connection with new construction projects in these regions.
5. Industrialization and standardization of construction
The nesting of facades, complicated floor plans and custom-made products also increase construction costs. Modular construction and the use of individual prefabricated parts, when applied in the right place and in a balanced way, can lead to a reduction in construction costs and accelerate assembly on site. The prefabrication of components and modules for the addition of roofs, standardized windows and doors are cheaper than custom-made products. Utilization-neutral floor plan solutions also ensure sustainable leasing, thereby helping to minimize the cost of adapting to future needs and reducing life cycle costs. Not only the standardization of construction processes, but also of planning processes – in the sense of a definition of uniform procedures or interfaces – can help to reduce costs. However, standardized planning procedures have their limits where the quality of use and architecture are restricted. Nevertheless, modularized and standardized construction methods should be increasingly used in the future. The basic prerequisite for this is a trusting and well-coordinated cooperation between planners and contractors from the outset in order to be able to combine creativity, innovation and execution skills in the best possible way.
In addition to these five basic positions on potential savings in planning and construction costs, there are a number of other ways to reduce the overall construction costs of your personal construction project.