Towards a CO-neutral SSH &: ‘I do not believe in one solution’

Studio housing provider SSH & has (almost) as many solar panels as tenants. The goal is to make all buildings CO-neutral by 2045 – without using natural gas. How? According to director Kees Stunnenberg, there is no standard solution. “That’s what makes it so complex.”

Next year, the SSH & complex Sterrenbosch will be connected to Radboud University’s sustainable heating system, the heat-cold storage (WKO). “It would be crazy if we did not use it,” said SSH & Director Kees Stunnenberg. After all, it fits in with SSH &’s ambition to be completely CO 2 neutral by 2045.

Are you also looking at other complexes in the area? Can they also be connected to the university’s heating network?

‘The hospital has its own heat and cold storage, which is separate from the university’s heat network. This year we are going to connect Nestor (the old nursing apartment next to the Radboudumc study center, ed.). The building is already ready, as is Sterrenbosch. These are low-hanging fruits’.

And the complexes just off campus, such as Hoogeveldt and de Gouverneur?

“There is a track in between. It makes it complicated to connect to campus. There may be district heating there in the future, and if not, we will have to look for other solutions for those complexes.

‘We first look at affordability for the tenant’

In 2020, you delivered Tilde, the renovated complex on Van Nispenstraat, without a gas connection. How did you do it?

At Tilde, we have chosen one all electricsolution (with a combination of solar panels and heat pumps, ed.). It is one of the alternative solutions to gas, but so far very expensive. You need a large roof area to fill with solar panels. However, you can not yet store the energy that you subsequently generate, because there are no good batteries on the market yet. During the day, you therefore return a lot to the energy grid. In the evening, when it is dark, the residents use a lot of energy, but then you do not generate anything. This alternative to gas may well become more interesting in the future because panels become more and more efficient and heat pumps become more efficient. ‘

So what is your strategy towards 2045?

‘We follow the municipality’s vision of heat as far as possible. If a district is connected to the heating network (district heating, ed.), We would of course like to make use of it. We have a roadmap with all the complexes on. Every time a complex is needed, for example for major maintenance, we look for the best solution. Should we wait for the council, or should we do it differently? Are there perhaps new innovations? ‘

Solar heating at the Doddendaal complex. Photo: Willem Melssen

»At Doddendaal, for example, we have reduced gas consumption with a solar heating system (see photo, ed.). We have panels on the roof that let the water flow through. We store the heated water in a container under the Doddendaal tower – a kind of water coil. At Mariënbosch, we burn biomass. We only need gas during peak times. ‘

There is no one-size-fits-all solution that applies to all your buildings.

‘No, that’s what makes it so complex. I also do not believe in one solution. Electric is not the solution for all complexes, but neither is heat from the ground. We have to weigh the possibilities for each complex. ‘

What is the deciding factor in this?

»As important as sustainability is, we as a student housing provider always look first at affordability for the tenant. What is he willing to pay? The students’ housing costs are already high. More than ever before, energy plays a role in this. We invest in sustainability to keep rents affordable. We started installing solar panels in 2005. Now we are a total of more than 7,200. With almost 7,400 tenants, almost every student has their own solar panel. ‘

What complexes do you want to tackle in the short term, besides Sterrenbosch and Nestor?

»We have just completed Heidepark (west of Goffertpark, ed.) – we have not yet removed the complex from the gas, but we have prepared it for district heating. Now we look at Thijmstraat in Willemskwartier. Should we wait for the municipality there as well, as at Heidepark, or should we work with heat pumps? We also always look at the environment: Are there perhaps companies or homes in the area that want to build a heating plot together, as is happening in Hengstdal right now, for example? ‘

»The same goes for new construction. At the current location of GGD on Groenewoudseweg (which is to be demolished and where SSH & will build a complex, ed.) We may be able to do something together with ROC. Delivering new buildings with gas heating systems is no longer an option. ‘

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