DGNB, Research
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Certification of districts is worth it

The DGNB has been awarding certificates to sustainable districts since 2012. More than 50 projects have successfully obtained certificates so far, both inside and outside Germany. Accordingly, the DGNB decided to explore the value that can be added to a development by certification.

To gain meaningful answers, the DGNB surveyed a variety of people who have had involvement in a certification process: Clients, DGNB Auditors and architects.

One of the first things the DGNB was curious to find out was what motivated people to apply for certification in the first place. The majority of participants told us they anticipated image gains or improvements in the quality of their project – or both. One in three participants believed certification would make an urban district easier to sell or rent out to clients. Similarly, just under one third of people surveyed wanted to gain certification in order to achieve their climate change objectives.

Added value: increasing the value of properties and staff satisfaction

We were also curious to know if our clients’ expectations were actually met in terms of value-added. One answer came from Gregor Grassl, whose firm has supervised more than ten districts as an Auditor. Grassl is Head of Green City Development at Drees & Sommer Advanced Building Technologies and in his experience, districts with DGNB certification to their name fetch a higher selling price per individual plot of development land. “On average, it’s five euros per square metre of the gross site area. For a small urban district measuring ten hectares, that’s about 500,000 euros!” estimates Grassl. This tallies with the findings of our survey. Four out of every five participants stated that the certification process had increased the value of properties.

We also ascertained that certification had enabled 40 per cent of participants to optimise the planning process, water supplies, and energy efficiency. Similarly, many participants described their employees as more satisfied and said that environmental quality had risen.

Factors that appeared to be less of a motivation for district certification included fulfilling CSR requirements, but also topics such as risk minimisation or employee productivity. Only a small number of participants told us that certification had allowed them to lower their operating costs.

Would they repeat certification? 92% of participants said yes

Our survey shows that ensuring districts are sustainable is worth it, from an economic, environmental and social point of view. Beyond the financial value that is added to a development, certified projects benefit by improving staff satisfaction and raising the environmental quality of properties. Certification also enhances planning in general. This was also reflected in the answers of participants when they were asked if they would have another district certified by the DGNB in future: 92 per cent of participants said that they would.

The report on „Added Value of Certified Districts“ is available as a download here.

Filed under: DGNB, Research


Stephan Anders studied Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Stuttgart and the ETH Zurich. From 2009 to 2015 he was an assistent professor and doctoral candidate at the Institute for Urban Design at the University of Stuttgart. Since 2012 he works for the German Sustainable Building Council e. V. (DGNB). At the DGNB he cared for the development and international application of the certification systems for sustainable urban districts and industrial locations. Since 2015 he is also lecturer for urban planning at the University of Applied Sciences in Stuttgart. 2016 he published his dissertation with the title "city as a system: method of holistic analysis of planning concepts". Since 2017 he is the Director of the DGNB System.

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