While there is widespread agreement that there must be a significant decrease in greenhouse gas emissions caused by human activity, the idea of lowering the average amount of energy used per person in industrialised nations is rarely entertained. One exception is Switzerland, where the government adopted the “Strategy for Sustainable Development 2002” and received the support of the national scientific and technological institutions. This vision of a “2000-watt society” was first proposed at the end of the previous century for smart city concept and approved in 1998 by the ETH. This vision aims to reduce the mean permanent power flux for all energy needs to around 2000 watts per capita including electricity and all primary energy sources. The idea looks at entire societal energy usage, including embodied energy, split by population, rather than just personal or household energy consumption.

Kalkbreite, Zurich | Smart City Concept

There are several types of residences, some of which have numerous living arrangements. For traditional nuclear families, there are standard apartments with two, three, four, or five bedrooms. However, there are also apartments with up to 17 bedrooms for large families, and studio apartments with bathrooms and tiny kitchenettes grouped into larger “clusters” with shared common areas and a communal kitchen. Additionally, there is a cluster of 20 mini-apartments for 50 people who have collectively paid for a staff kitchen. There are also nine “jokers,”- small units measuring around 28 square metres scattered throughout the property and available for short-term rental. The cooperative committed to maximising the on-site public transportation connections and forgoing parking. Instead, it contains a few hundred bicycles stored on the ground floor. Additionally, it complied with Swiss environmental regulations for Passive House construction and set a 32 sq m floor area per inhabitant ceiling limit.

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Kalkbreite Complex_@Martin Stollenwerk
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Kalkbreite Complex_@Michael Egloff
Kalkbreite Complex_@Michael Egloff

Our Future Living Environment

A 2000-Watt Site is more than the sum of the houses. The certificate allows us to evaluate large site developments in terms of building quality, density, mixed usage, and mobility. The total energy consumption of a certified site is optimised to the targets of the 2000-Watt Society. The aim for low resource consumption is achieved by energy-optimised buildings in a well-functioning urban development context. The concept of a 2000-Watt Site takes an integrative view of the entire site rather than individual buildings. It opens up the perspective by depicting the whole living environment. 

Is a 2,000-Watt Society Feasible?

By 2050, the idea wants to reduce energy use to an average of 2 kW without lowering living standards or mobility. The idea has received substantial media coverage, and some observers have claimed that because of its long-term perspective, it is a utopian rather than a practical vision. The average rate of primary energy use in the globe today is roughly 2000 watts. In contrast, in 2008, the average power consumption in western Europe was around 6000 watts, in the United States it was 12,000 watts, in China it was 1,500 watts, in India it was 1,000 watts, in South Africa it was 500 watts, and in Bangladesh, it was only 300 watts. In the 1960s, Switzerland, which at the time consumed an average of about 5,000 watts, was a 2000-watt civilization. Furthermore, within 50 to 100 years, the use of carbon-based fuels will be reduced to no more than 500 watts per person.

Implications for Architecture

Concerns about climate change, energy security, and the future availability of energy sources led to the creation of the vision. The Association of Swiss Architects and Engineers, the Swiss Federal Office of Energy, and other organisations support it. Despite a predicted 65% rise in economic development by 2050, researchers in Switzerland feel that this ambition is still attainable by utilising innovative low-carbon technology and methods. To achieve the goal of a 2000-watt society, several actions will be necessary, including a complete reinvestment in the nation’s capital assets, renovation of the nation’s building stock to meet low-energy building standards, significant improvements in the efficiency of road transportation, aviation, and the use of energy-intensive materials, the potential introduction of high-speed maglev trains, and the use of renewable energy sources, district heating, and microgenerators.

Switzerland is hoped to emerge as a leader in related technologies due to the increased research and development work needed. Because of concerns about climate change, the government has backed the proposal quite strongly. Renewing the housing stock and building new settlements are two strategically significant opportunities to accomplish these goals. Housing associations are crucial in this sense, as they are in conversations about quality of life, cooperative living, and inexpensive housing.

The Hunziker Area and Kalkbreite case studies in the City of Zurich are excellent examples of the significant demand for thorough sustainability planning and construction. The housing cooperatives have achieved high standards in planning and construction and an ambitious fusion of environmental, social, and economic objectives and needs. In addition to serving as guiding principles, mixed, inclusive, and cheap housing are also standards that were upheld during project execution and in the years that followed. live comfortably on little more than 35 square metres in so-called cluster apartments, without a car, and with a variety of shared amenities, etc. Success elements and limitations for sustainability in cooperative housing are inferred from and debated against the backdrop of the case studies.

Hunziker Areal, Zürich | Smart City Concept

The Zurich cooperative building society’s pioneer Hunziker Areal project tests a shared, sustainable way of living and a participatory process. There are 370 flats, offices, service providers, a kindergarten, a yoga studio, ateliers, and a guest house, among other places for living, working, and enjoyment. Since five architecture offices collaborated on the project, the designs have a variety of personalities. They vary in materials, styles, and floor plans, but they all include sizable communal areas. To establish a diverse and colourful neighbourhood, several collectives, social housing units, single apartments, and satellite flats were erected.

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Hunziker Areal_@https://www.zuerich.com/en/visit/attractions/hunziker-areal
2000 Watt Smart City Concept and Its Implications for Architects - Sheet2
Hunziker Areal_@https://www.zuerich.com/en/visit/attractions/hunziker-areal
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Hunziker Areal_@https://www.zuerich.com/en/visit/attractions/hunziker-areal


  • 2000-watt society, Wikipedia. Available at:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2000-watt_society [Accessed February 8, 2023].
  • Hunziker Areal, Zürich, Urban Design Studio. Available at: http://urbandesignstudio.net/assets/hunziker-2.pdf [Accessed February 8, 2023].
  • Kalkbreite, Zurich, Right to Build Toolkit. Available at: https://righttobuildtoolkit.org.uk/case-studies/kalkbreite-zurich/#  [Accessed February 8, 2023].

Currently in her 4th year of Architecture at IIT Roorkee, Avantika believes that architecture is a tool for meeting people’s aspirations and providing them with better experiences. When coupled with design thinking, architecture and research have the potential to enrich our societies and have a constructive impact. Creating socially, culturally, and environmentally sustainable spaces is what architecture means to her. Her experience as an architecture student has shifted her world view and taught her to be more observant and empathetic.