The concept of a “passive house” is familiar to everyone these days. A few years ago, however, this was not the case and even today new houses are not necessarily built in this ecological style.
Günter Jedliczka set up OeAD housing management and made the decision right from the start: if he is going to build houses, then he will do so in a sustainable and ecological way. How could that be better than with a connection to education and internationality.
He is never stressed, he says. You can find out what his secret is and how the idea of building ecologically has become a successful summer university here in this Green Business Interview.
Have fun while reading!
How and when did you come up with the idea of starting your own company?
I joined ÖAD Wohnraumverwaltung in 1995, but we were still very small. During this time, we have built 13 guest houses / student dormitories for international students and visiting professors. 8 of them have already been built to the passive house standard, including the first passive house student home in Vienna.
We are committed to ecological building and our partners have a lot of know-how here, of course. In order to use this knowledge, the idea for the summer university was born. Exactly this, the “Green Building Solutions”, took place for the 9th time this year.
I studied economics myself and am interested in the topic of economy and environmental protection. It cannot go on as it is at the moment! That’s why I thought we would also do a summer university on economics and money systems.
I myself have been involved in this, as well as in all lectures every 6 years. I have learned a lot myself and I have also read a lot of further literature.
However, I see the really big and decisive lever in the money and financial system.
What was your motivation and vision back then?
Well, with the ecological houses we built, I read a book about the passive house, which simply appealed to me. So, I decided to build something in this style. Since then, passive houses have been our minimum standard, whereby we go in the direction of “zero energy” and “energy plus”. That means we make sure that the energy requirement drops as much as possible and that we ourselves also use energy with e.g. generate photovoltaics. It works very well and the students are also enthusiastic about it. Just like us about the energy bills, which are always very “positive”.
The summer universities are also going very well. We think it’s great that about 110 students take the idea out into the world. However, we believe that many more people should come into contact with it. That is why our idea is that other universities in other cities adopt the concept.
For next year we will also invite Greta Thunberg to be a participant. Of course, that would be a great multiplier effect in order to convey the idea to many more people.
Were there initial challenges?
I don’t really have to say. We already found a developer at the first passive house who was fully behind it. The architects were great, the planners were great, the construction company was behind it. Everyone pulled together and that’s why it worked well. There was not much convincing to do here. We wanted a passive house and we found really good partners who wanted to risk it with us.
Where is the risk there? People were on the moon 50 years ago, so building an ecological house is no problem. Of course, you need a certain amount of know-how, but it’s actually not that complicated.
What does a typical day look like in your life today?
This is sometimes very different. There is the standard office work, where I, as the managing director, look at cost accounting, home occupancy or other pending issues. On the other hand, there is of course planning the summer universities or the new projects for new buildings. A lot of this is coordination work, since we are present in many countries and are in contact with universities and universities of applied sciences. So, it is very complex and a job whose content I can easily identify with.
We accommodate approximately 10,000-12,000 students every year. I am sure that the majority appreciate it very much because those who want to study in Austria know that they will give us a place to live – at a very reasonable price, I think.
I fill my free time with a lot of sports like soccer, skiing or playing tennis.
What are the most important skills and qualities to be successful in your industry?
I think as a non-profit organisation you have different goals than some of the others. It’s great that I do not have to generate any returns for any investors. That means, of course, that we still have to do very well and plan well so that the “black zero” runs out at the end of the year.
It has always been important to me to have a job where I can do something for the general public.
Do you have a secret to success?
I think it is important to be open and honest with the partners because that is always appreciated. Of course, it is also very important to be particularly service-oriented and to think about what the students actually want.
How do you / your company make money?
So of course, we have our costs, e.g. for the staff. We never own the houses. We have to pay rent and electricity there. That is why we calculate the home price so that it ends well at the end of the year. This is approximately a profit of €10,000 with sales of 6-10 million.
Is there anything that you think needs improvement in your industry?
In Austria we are an island of the blessed, as is generally the case with student apartments. There are enough good quality and affordable student dormitories. There are now a few private individuals on the market. However, we see this quite unproblematically – we continue to do our “homework”.
The advantage over other countries is that there is no excess demand in Austria. So far, things have always turned out well and that is of course also very important for Austria as a university location. In other countries it is often very different.
The summer universities have resulted from the fact that good occupancy in the summer months is also important to us. Both summer universities have now developed their own momentum and are very well received, because to our knowledge there is nothing like this anywhere else. However, that may change in the future!
If you could start again, would you do something different?
What do you advise others about their lives and careers?
I was lucky to have a great home and a great childhood. You start life differently than others, of course. However, it was also different books that influenced me a lot. For example, “To have or to be”, which is also a very good example for the summer university, or “Man before the question of the meaning” by Viktor Frankl. Books have always given me a lot of inspiration. After the book “Club of Rome” I also thought about what you can do for society as an individual.