World’s first energy self-sufficient multifamily house

ABB technology makes pioneering smarter home project a reality for Swiss residents.

Zurich, Switzerland, March 7, 2018 - ABB, working with partner Umwelt Arena Spreintenbach, have created the world’s first off-grid multi-occupancy building without compromising on comfort.

Built in the northern lowlands of Switzerland and home to nine families, this revolutionary building sources all of the energy that residents need for living from the sun. 

The roof and the entire facade are clad with solar panels and 26 ABB solar inverters, which convert DC power from the solar panels to AC power, providing a renewable source of electricity and ultimately a renewable source of combustible fuel for the house.

Although the building saves on energy at all levels, the residents need not sacrifice comfort. This is achieved through proven technologies and systems that acquire and store energy, as well as innovations that reduce energy consumption. 
In one hour, the system harnesses enough energy to provide power for the families for a whole day and the excess is either stored in lithium iron phosphate batteries or used to turn water into hydrogen fuel. This means that the energy requirements of all nine families are met purely by renewables all year round, making the building 100 percent energy self-sufficient.

The apartment building was symbolically cut from the grid at its opening ceremony to highlight the achievement. 

To help consume less of the precious energy captured by the building, the household appliances must work with the utmost energy efficiency. Apart from energy saving washing machines and refrigerators, the ABB-free@home building automation system helps keep energy consumption as low as possible.

"We are proud to be part of this milestone project. ABB-free@home converts these new apartments into intelligent homes and our solar equipment supports the building’s self-sufficiency," explained Mike Mustapha, group Executive Vice President Marketing, Sales & Commercial Operations, Electrification Products at ABB. 

"Various functionalities of the building automation system are used to reduce energy consumption while at the same time enhancing comfort. With the goodbye button, for example, all standby appliances are switched off completely when leaving the apartment."

For greater comfort and ease of operation, different scenes can be configured into the ABB-free@home system so that dimmed dining lights can be differentiated from bright illumination for reading. The system also recognizes light combinations and offers them automatically for selection. If residents, for example, watch TV with the lights dimmed and curtains drawn, the building automation system notes this combination and then provides it as an option.

Thanks to sensors outdoors and indoors, the ABB-free@home building automation system also responds automatically to external conditions. If it is too warm in the apartment due to high intensity sunlight on the window pane, the curtains will draw automatically. If a strong wind is blowing that could damage the blinds, they are drawn up. In this way, the building's automation system ensures not only safety and energy efficiency, but also maximum comfort. 

The Vogts are one of the families who reside in the building. They say that the ABB automation system enables them to have regular visibility on their energy use. 

“We look almost every day to see what our energy usage has been,” said Corinne Vogt. “Around 80 percent usage is green, 90 percent is orange and then over 100 percent is red. In the whole 16 months that we’ve lived here, none of the months have averaged as a red month, even in January when the conditions were really tough, we were only at around 90 percent.” 

Mike Mustapha concludes: “Research and innovation needs lighthouse projects like this. This project demonstrates our innovative technology work and there is no need to sacrifice comfort to achieve energy self-sufficiency.”

For more information, please contact:

Natalie Hodges
Media Relations Manager
Electrification Products division
Phone: +41 (0)43 317 5404

Affolternstrasse 44
8050 Zurich

ABB (ABBN: SIX Swiss Ex) is a pioneering technology leader in electrification products, robotics and motion, industrial automation and power grids, serving customers in utilities, industry and transport & infrastructure globally. Continuing a history of innovation spanning more than 130 years, ABB today is writing the future of industrial digitalization with two clear value propositions: bringing electricity from any power plant to any plug and automating industries from natural resources to finished products. As title partner of Formula E, the fully electric international FIA motorsport class, ABB is pushing the boundaries of e-mobility to contribute to a sustainable future. ABB operates in more than 100 countries with about 135,000 employees. 

About Us

ABB (ABBN: SIX Swiss Ex) is a pioneering technology leader in electrification products, robotics and motion, industrial automation and power grids serving customers in utilities, industry and transport & infrastructure globally. For more than four decades, ABB is writing the future of industrial digitalization. With more than 70 million devices connected through its installed base of more than 70,000 control systems across all customer segments, ABB is ideally positioned to benefit from the Energy and Fourth Industrial Revolution. With a heritage of more than 130 years, ABB operates in more than 100 countries with about 135,000 employees.