The site on Riesaer Strasse centres around a novel concept and is due to be completed by March 2022. It will then unite the Gröner Group’s full panoply of trades and professions under one roof ‒ in the Mansfeld Hallen, as the innovation centre will also be known. This will boost direct knowledge transfer and, in turn, unleash enormous development potential. Prefabrication is elemental to this. The site will not just encompass offices and different workshops for the traditional skilled trades. There will also be shop floors for serial production of wall and floor coverings, for instance. And plans are in the pipeline to expand the use of prefabrication in the future to include parquet flooring and ventilation shafts. 

The innovation centre will also fulfil another important function. It will serve as a training facility for employees who wish to train in a traditional trade or prefabrication, or use the teaching workshops to build on their existing skills. There will be capacity for 42 trainees at a time, including apartments to accommodate them. Teaching rooms will be used to cover specialist areas as well as subjects like social studies. Language courses will also be available if required. 

Ulf Graichen; CDO of the CG Elementum AG and Head of Central German Locations

Capable and reliable employees are fundamental to our company. It’s why we have always championed their professional development and worked hard for their loyalty. The shortage of skilled labour is a problem everywhere, but particularly in the skilled trades. This has inspired us to go even further than before and think on a more international scale, not least to give us a competitive edge. 

Out of this has come the exceptional idea of creating an innovation centre. It will be a place for us to pursue an interdisciplinary approach to the benefit of our construction and innovation projects. A place to assimilate all areas of technical expertise in an open exchange of experience. And a place to train in new areas as well as refresh and expand existing knowledge in order to meet the full range of requirements. For example, we will familiarise our employees from abroad with German material and execution standards, among others.  

There will also be an additional focus on training our construction team in installing prefabricated components. All of this will create in the Mansfeld Hallen a constructive arena that will equip us very well for the future. 

Items such as sleeping bags and mats, winter boots and thermal underwear were donated after establishing what was needed in each specific area. At several sites, company employees also helped distribute the goods.

Members of the Gröner Group team bring sleeping bags, toiletries, hygiene products and food donations to the Bahnhofsmission outreach organisation in Munich.
Members of the Gröner Group team bring sleeping bags, toiletries, hygiene products and food donations to the Bahnhofsmission outreach organisation in Munich.

“I’m overjoyed to witness the initiative shown by my teams and how quickly everything got done,” said company founder and Managing Director Christoph Gröner, who has supported charitable initiatives helping homeless children for many years. “Thanks to these contacts, we’ve now been able to respond very quickly with help. Rather than just handing out money, we felt it was important to respond directly to people’s needs. When temperatures drop well below zero, you have to move urgently.” It matters to Christoph Gröner that this kind of help is not just a one-off, but that long-term partnerships develop between the Gröner Group and the various organisations. The entrepreneur is firmly convinced, “It is our social duty to help our fellow human beings, not just in times of crisis but whenever we have the means to do so.” Accordingly, the Gröner Group will again provide winter aid in the future whenever icy weather persists.

Sleeping mats and bags, thermal underwear, winter boots and warm clothing were bought and delivered to organisations in Frankfurt, Leipzig, Berlin, Karlsruhe, Cologne, Hamburg and Munich without delay or red tape. Recipients included the Bahnhofsmission railway outreach organisation in Frankfurt and Munich, homeless shelters for women and men in Leipzig, Streetwork Stations run by the Offroad Kids foundation in Hamburg and Berlin, the AWO worker welfare charity in Karlsruhe, CaFée mit Herz in the St. Pauli district of Hamburg and Helping Hands e. V. in Zollstock, Cologne.

Delivering the donated items to Helping Hands Cologne e. V.

This is not the first relief programme Christoph Gröner and his company have been involved in. The Gröner Group provided support to the Leipziger Tafel food bank last year to allow it to continue its work. In total, the group donated more than one million euros to social, charitable and cultural projects in 2020. Alongside this, Christoph Gröner has been engaged for many years, both privately and through his companies, in supporting a number of sports clubs, research projects (Barrett Initiative e. V.) and cultural initiatives (International Youth Orchestra Academy – IJOA) across Germany in various ways. His top priority in all of this has been and remains child and youth services. It has always been his conviction that entrepreneurs carry social responsibility – especially for children and young people.

In February 2020, Christoph Gröner joined forces with Prof. Rüdiger Grube and other entrepreneurs to establish the Wirtschaft kann Kinder e. V. non-profit, which helps disadvantaged children and their families. One of the charity’s main objectives is to promote equality of opportunity for all children in Germany, regardless of where they grow up or the conditions in which they live. A child’s family background and financial situation still have a great impact on their opportunities in life. This is something that needs to be rectified – by committed entrepreneurs working together as human beings and citizens as well as businesspeople to invest in Germany’s future, with children’s interests at heart.

About the Gröner Group

Gröner Group GmbH draws on more than 25 years of experience to give shape to forward-thinking property developments. The group’s emphasis is on creating affordable housing and living spaces. Alongside the digital reorganisation of the construction and property industry using BIM and its sister field of prefabrication, the company is committed to achieving as neutral a carbon footprint as possible.

Through its subsidiary CG Elementum AG, the Gröner Group has access to a company-owned service provider for sustainable and digital construction. CG Elementum provides a full range of services in new construction, conversions and the renovation of old and listed buildings for the group’s in-house projects and to third-party companies.

The Gröner Group has its headquarters in Berlin. With seven branch offices and around 400 employees, the company is forging ahead with more than 80 project developments throughout Germany with an overall development volume of around five billion euros.

Global climate change is undoubtedly one of the greatest and most fundamental challenges of our time. It was agreed at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris in 2015 to limit global warming to less than 2°C. To achieve this, global net greenhouse gas emissions will have to be reduced to zero by the second half of this century. This is a momentous task, not only for the international community but also for the global economy. Every industry is obliged to play its part – not least the property sector. Especially so, because buildings demonstrably produce around 40% of all CO₂ emissions worldwide. Yet as it stands, most measures designed to counteract this barely extend beyond facade insulation.

Our green technology expert: Dr Rainer Fauth, Sustainability Project Manager at CG Plan
Our green technology expert: Dr Rainer Fauth, Sustainability Project Manager at CG Plan

CG Elementum, on the other hand, is thinking ahead. It is fully committed to using green technology to make carbon-neutral, resource-conserving properties a reality. “In order to ensure ecological sustainability of a new and higher calibre, we have enshrined this elemental issue in our planning right from the start. Our approach includes innovative recycled materials and avoiding greenhouse gases by using local sources of environmental heat,” explains Dr Rainer Fauth, Sustainability Project Manager at CG Plan, a subsidiary of CG Elementum.

Making old into new – we take the circular economy seriously!

“A core component of this sustainability concept is checking the eco credentials of all our building materials, for example their carbon footprint. The most resource-friendly building materials are in fact those that already consist fully or partially of recycled materials,” attests Dr Fauth. It is now already possible to produce prefabricated components entirely from recycled concrete, which is made using processed construction rubble. In keeping with the urban mining concept, this conserves natural stone and river gravel.

The Kerazzo wall and floor coverings are made with up to 78% recycled materials
The Kerazzo wall and floor coverings are made with up to 78% recycled materials

Yet CG Elementum reuses not only concrete. Kerazzo is used for visible surfaces such as wall and floor coverings. This material is inspired by the idea of terrazzo, a well-known feature in antique buildings. In an innovative new process, up to 78% recycled materials such as waste glass, marble, granite and quartzite are formed into attractive panels. These can then be laid without visible joint lines. In contrast to ceramic tiles, almost any design can be produced. And at just 6.6 mm thick, they also weigh only half as much. They are easier to transport and lay, are low-maintenance, and have antibacterial properties. The company TREND Kerazzo Deutschland handles distribution of the panels for CG Elementum. Its innovative product has already been awarded GREENGUARD Children & Schools certification, while certification with a Blue Angel ecolabel has been initiated.

Earth, water, light – renewable energy solutions for every project

A holistic approach is essential when considering carbon-saving energy supplies that conserve resources. “Not every kind of technology can be used for every building project. Nevertheless, there are suitable solutions for every project, whether geothermal or solar thermal energy, water source thermal energy, wind power or photovoltaics. Photovoltaics is particularly useful where there are extensive roof areas, like in our large-scale Plagwitzer Höfe project,” explains Dr Fauth. With 5,684 individual modules, a total surface area of 9,600 m2 and a nominal capacity of 1.6 MWp, this is the largest system of its kind in Leipzig. It saves around 750 tons of CO₂ every year, which corresponds roughly to the annual CO₂ output of 250 diesel cars.

Leipzig’s largest: the Plagwitzer Höfe photovoltaics system with 5,684 modules across a roof area covering 9,600 m²
Leipzig’s largest: the Plagwitzer Höfe photovoltaics system with 5,684 modules across a roof area covering 9,600 m²

In other projects it makes sense to focus more on geothermal energy, thermal energy from running water or wind power, as Dr Fauth explains: “Basically, for each project we have to check which forms of environmental heat are available locally. Where we can use groundwater and terrestrial heat, then geothermal energy is a better fit. In areas with running water sources nearby, it then makes sense to focus on thermal energy from river water instead.”

Zero-emissions district – the OTTO Quarter

The successful development of a zero-emissions project usually requires a judicious combination of different innovative technologies as well as the harnessing of all available resources. The OTTO Quarter in Wendlingen is an initial beacon project for this holistic approach. With its central infrastructure for energy, water and mobility, the quarter is well on its way to becoming Germany’s first zero-emissions district.

In addition to photovoltaic systems on the roofs, measures also include assessing whether thermal energy from the nearby Neckar river can be harnessed using a modified water intake structure. Heat exchangers will also be used to recover energy from the quarter’s wastewater. An option for combining this with geothermal heat pumps is also being explored. The high proportion of renewable energy resulting from all this will help achieve the zero-emissions objective. “We have already made relatively good progress with the OTTO Quarter. But comprehensive energy concepts of this kind will become standard for all new projects,” emphasises Dr Fauth. “We think long term. Our planning includes not only climate and resource protection but also operating costs over a property’s entire life cycle.”

A network of five “power managers” delivers an optimised supply to electric charging points. The intelligent system is able to distribute its resources to best effect, working on the assumption that it is unlikely that all users will want to charge their vehicles at the same time and that their charge states will not all be the same.

A power manager with a total of 16 connecting points can supply up to 150 kW at once. The electric charging points are designed for a charging capacity of 11 kW each. That’s enough to charge a hybrid or cityflitzer (carshare) vehicle in two to three hours. Vehicles are usually charged at night rather than during the day, ensuring sufficient capacity to meet all requirements.

Even though the majority of the apartment owners do not yet own a hybrid or pure electric vehicle, most of the 80 optional charging points have already been secured. The readiness of owners to invest in this technology is clear proof of a different way of thinking and a shift towards a more conscious use of this on-trend technology.

The issue of sustainable mobility will continue to play a key part in projects carried out by GEM Ingenieur GmbH Projektmanagement and its parent company CG Elementum AG going forward. The combined use of different renewable energies to supply infrastructure will ensure eligibility for subsidies from the federal government and the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg and thus reduce costs.

Mr Theves, prefabrication is a crucial part of the business model at CG Elementum. The job of the EMC factory will be to produce, deliver and assemble the necessary components. As Factory Manager, you are instrumental in driving forward implementation of the upcoming rollout in the main factory. How do things stand?

Handover of our production facility and office building is already complete and the first employees are on-site. The factory will be operational in January 2021 as planned. We will then initially test the performance of the facilities. The first components from this dry run will feed straight into the D17 pilot project at the Plagwitzer Höfe site in Leipzig. This will be the first Gröner Group building constructed using EMC prefabricated concrete components. As of March 2021, the factory will then be all set to produce 1,850 m² per day in single-shift operation.

How will the production process work?

We intend to manufacture prefabricated concrete components to Industry 4.0 standards. The dimensions and requirements for every single one of these units will be provided and processed digitally. Our factory building will cover 16,000 m² and include a state-of-the-art automated carousel production line. Here, steel tables will move from station to station in a fully automated process to manufacture a range of units. First, shuttering robots will position the steel formwork for the components. A reinforcing cage will then be added, in other words the inner framework. At the next station, conduit or cable bundles, sockets and other installations will be fitted by hand. This will then be followed by fully automatic concrete casting. The now concreted unit will then be moved into the curing chamber. This will have space for 82 steel tables, with every table holding up to four units at once. In the curing chamber, the concrete will be cured at an ambient temperature of 35 to 40 degrees. The temperature will be generated through so-called hydration heat without the need for additional heating.

The next morning, the cured units will be moved to the lifting stations, where the prefabricated concrete components will be taken off. The steel table will be cleaned and moved back to the first station with the shuttering robots. All automatically.

Modular unit in its individual parts, as delivered from the factory
Modular unit in its individual parts, as delivered from the factory

Some members of staff will surely be needed?

Compared with other prefab market leaders, we will minimise the number of staff members needed per square metre by a large margin. As a comparison: for the number of prefabricated concrete components manufactured with a daily production of 350 m³, other companies need 45 people loading in a three-shift system. At the EMC factory, we will need just one or, at most, two employees in a single-shift system. Less manual work means fewer sources of error and greater process reliability. We will also only hire in-house personnel under permanent contract. None of the factory work for the production process will be carried out by subcontractors or agency workers.

Close to completion: the EMC I in Amt Wachsenburg near Erfurt will be operational in early 2021
Close to completion: the EMC I in Amt Wachsenburg near Erfurt will be operational in early 2021

What kind of production volumes are we talking about? What output will the factory be capable of?

Let’s take the D17 pilot project in Plagwitz in Leipzig. For this we will need to produce 530 ceilings, 635 walls and 64 cavity walls ‒ a concrete surface area totalling around 13,000 m² and encompassing a range of layouts. In single-shift operation we will be able to manage 1,850 m² per day. So for the entire build we will need a mere eight days. As soon as we adopt a three-shift operation, things will move faster. Instead of 400,000 m² per year, we’ll then be able to produce 1.2 million m². In theory, this figure could be much higher if we added extra heating to the curing chamber and/or accelerated the concrete curing process with chemicals.

D17 pilot project in Plagwitz, Leipzig – this is what the first building made from EMC prefabricated components will look like (image may differ from final building)
D17 pilot project in Plagwitz, Leipzig – this is what the first building made from EMC prefabricated components will look like
(image may differ from final building)

So the components will then be delivered straight from the factory to the construction site?

Yes, in single-shift operation we will have 35 lorries filled with sand, gravel and cement arriving at the site every day. Just as many will then transport the finished units away to the construction sites. Normally it would be even more, but in conjunction with both of the haulage firms we are working with we have developed our own trailers that can carry 20% more load. This will mean four fewer lorries on the motorway every day. That’s around 880 fewer lorries per year – and this is only with single-shift operation.

Environmental factors are a core consideration for CG Elementum. How do you respond to the fact that concrete production is one of the largest CO2 emitters?

Firstly, we will use a CEM II cement here that has 20% less CO₂ emissions. Secondly, we have a long-term focus on recycling and are already in negotiation with demolition companies. We are in a position where we will be able to use up to 40% recycled material for our components. Environmental considerations have been factored into our plans right from the start.

It is similar to the digital process chain, where we are able to produce highly bespoke designs for our concrete units without losing any time. The same is true here: we don’t want to use production techniques that are state-of-the-art today. We want our production now to already meet the standards that we expect to apply in 10 to 15 years’ time. This foresight is what makes European Modular Constructions GmbH so special. In this spirit, we are now already planning the expansion of our factory.

In usual times it is published in October to coincide with the Expo Real trade fair in Munich. But due to COVID, the event (entitled the Expo Real Hybrid Summit this year) was cancelled 36 hours before it was due to start. What remains is the 15th CG Magazine – simply enduring, simply elemental.

A magazine that speaks for itself

The magazine is published at a key turning point in the company’s history – under the aegis of the Gröner Group, we are harnessing more than 25 years of experience to undertake a radical shift from a traditional resource-consuming approach to a sustainable resource-conserving strategy for project development. In doing so, we are bringing economic, environmental and social interests into alignment.

If you haven’t yet got your hands on a physical copy of the magazine…

…you can also read it online, on the train, in a café or wherever happens to be convenient. Read about how we are implementing our concept of project development as a service here at the Gröner Group. Our property portfolio today covers more than 40 projects, and we are now a team of around 400 employees, spread across seven offices.

Joining a number of skilled tradespeople from general contractor WOLFF & MÜLLER Hoch- und Industriebau, who have given such huge impetus to the project, were WOLFF & MÜLLER Branch Manager Stefan Latzel, staff from Müller:Scheuvens Baubetreuung Ingenieurpartnerschaft, the team of architects from kadawittfeldarchitektur and Marcus Zischg, Project Manager at CG Elementum AG.

Cologneo Campus – GE-101

GE-101 is one of the first building blocks to go up on the southern part of the Cologneo site. The new five-storey building features a stepped floor, and its location within the quarter is at the interface to a vehicle route through to the commercial courtyard spaces. Where it faces the road, the building runs right alongside Deutz-Mühlheimer Strasse.

All office spaces in GE-101 can be divided. The building benefits from a large roof terrace, an attractive outdoor space on the ground floor and flexible staff areas, including spaces for company sports activities and in-house childcare. All this means the building fits perfectly into the Cologneo Campus’s vibrant overall concept.

The completion date for the office building is May 2021 and Gröner GbR is the developer. With a gross floor area of 5,300 m², the project volume is valued at 18.2 million euros.

Great public interest

In order to give the general public a better understanding of the OTTO Quarter project, the project team invited people to join them from 6 pm on 14 September 2020. 130 people took part in person – a limited number due to the pandemic – while more than 200 watched online at peak viewing times. The presentation of the planned large-scale project for the historical quarter lasted around three hours.

After a welcome message from Steffen Weigel, the Mayor of Wendlingen, the evening’s talks were hosted by Tobias Schiller, Press Officer for the 2027 International Building Exhibition (IBA 2027). The speakers were Dirk Otto, the seventh generation in a line of directors at the Heinrich Otto & Söhne (HOS) company, after whom the site is named, representatives of Blocher Partners from Stuttgart (master plan) and architecture studio Planstatt Senner (outdoor space concept), and architect Jörg Wolf, who explained the concept for the 64-metre tower with its six cubes.

George Moutoulis, Branch Manager at CG Elementum Stuttgart, and OTTO Project Manager Wulf Köstler held two talks summarising the planning project, which was originally supposed to be demonstrated to the public via a range of events.

A recording of the event is available on YouTube and can be accessed by clicking this link.

The OTTO Quarter

By 2026, the former industrial buildings will be transformed into an urban residential quarter close to the city centre. This will include premium modern apartments for up to 600 people as well as commercial spaces for future-proof enterprises in partly listed buildings. Planning carried out by the OTTO project team involves a thoughtful union of old and new. Alongside extensive and environmental revitalisation of the site, new buildings will be added to industrial monuments meeting the highest standards of future viability, sustainability and quality of life.

The Otto Quarter is also a featured project in the 2027 International Building Exhibition (IBA 2027). The aim is for this new urban quarter to be fully operational in time for the exhibition. Working, living and leisure will be combined on a local scale. The quarter is expected to cover its own energy requirements through the use of geothermal energy, heat from wastewater and the Neckar river, and photovoltaics.