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Baukultur at the DGNB

The DGNB has been appointed to the steering committee of the recently founded Davos Baukultur Alliance. The appointment was announced at the Second Conference of European Ministers of Culture. The platform brings together representatives of business, the public sector and civil society with the aim of jointly safeguarding high-quality Baukultur in Europe. This is a good opportunity to take a closer look at the importance of Baukultur at the DGNB.

Common Good – Shared Responsibility: this was the title adopted in mid-January for the Second Conference of European Ministers of Culture, which looked at the quality of the built environment on the sidelines of the World Economic Conference in Davos. The ministers had already adopted the Davos Declaration ‘Towards a High-Quality Baukultur for Europe’ at the first conference in 2018. The declaration explains the need to protect and promote a high-quality built environment, highlighting pathways for promoting the concept in Europe through policy and strategies.

To build on this, this year specific measures were discussed with stakeholders from politics and industry to enable cross-sector cooperation between the authorities, the general public, and the building and property industry. In the long term, this should guarantee a sustainable, quality-centric approach to buildings, infrastructure, public spaces and countryside to the benefit of all.

Prof. Amandus Samsøe Sattler

In addition to further work on the Davos Baukultur Quality System, in January a platform was established for the Davos Baukultur Alliance. Its aim is to foster urgently needed interdisciplinary exchange as well as to plan measures and accelerate their implementation. The partners of the platform include 46 ministries of culture and education, governmental and non-governmental organisations, and business enterprises. The DGNB is also a member of the steering committee, represented by DGNB President and <architectProf. Amandus Samsøe Sattler.

In a statement issued in Davos, Sattler began by asking what Baukultur has to do with sustainability. His response: “Baukultur is making sustainability a concrete ingredient of the built environment. Baukultur allows us to make sustainability visible. Certified buildings often reduce sustainability to technical features. But that’s not necessarily beautiful. It’s important to bring the two together – to find a holistic approach.”

The DGNB approach to Baukultur

The increasing incidence of cataclysmic natural disasters, profit-driven environmental degradation and increasingly scarce resources is fuelling awareness of climate protection and sustainability. This is also impacting the building sector. In addition to producing quality workmanship and using sustainable materials, it’s important to achieve good design, without which you cannot create buildings that will last and are well received and happily used by broad swathes of the population.

As well as offering its approach for making sustainable building measurable and assessable by means of a certification system, the DGNB’s involvement in national and international trade bodies has formed links to all stages of the value chain – and beyond. This involves the DGNBin very different committees and initiatives, such as the Phase Sustainability initiative, discussing and driving current issues surrounding sustainability on an interdisciplinary level. This includes Baukultur, a building block that plays an important role in reflecting the history, tradition and identity of regional society.

As a member of bodies such as the Federal Foundation of Baukultursupport group, an official partner of New European Bauhaus, a collaboration partner in IBA’27, a participator in joint events with the Federal Chamber of Architects (BAK), and now also as a member of the Davos Baukultur Alliance steering committee, the DGNB plays an active role in promoting high-quality design in construction. In so doing, as well as adopting a holistic approach, the non-profit organisation is observing one of its essential principles, namely that knowledge and experience should be shared with all parties in order to achieve our goal together.

High standards of architectural quality and Baukultur under the DGNB System: the DGNB Certificate in Diamond

Introduced in 2009 and continuously developed ever since, the internationally recognised certification system of the DGNB has established a framework for safeguarding and capturing the sustainability standards of building projects in technical terms. The DGNB decided to go one step further in 2016 with the introduction of the DGNB Diamond. This scheme allows completed projects that have already proven their high sustainably standards through DGNB certification in gold or platinum to apply for a supplementary award.

DGNB Diamant“At the DGNB, we consider design and Baukultur essential aspects of holistic sustainability,”, explains Martin Haas, DGNB Vice President and architect, dwho played an instrumental role in the development of the award.„“These are the factors that make a significant contribution to users accepting a building, and this has a direct impact on its longevity, marketability and value retention. We developed the DGNB Diamond to offer a specific scheme that not only reflects this aspect but also rewards those who actually do achieve outstanding design.”

An independwent committee that focuses on the quality of design – and was pulled together specifically for this purpose – visits buildings to discuss standards on site and decide whether they merit a DGNB Diamond award. Its assessment criteria were developed as part of an intensive process with the support of the Federal Chamber of Architects (BAK), dem the Association of German Architects (BDA) und weiteren Expertinnen und Experten aus Architektur, Stadtplanung und Ingenieurwesen erarbeitet.

The German Sustainability Award (GSA) for Architecture

2013 haben die DGNB und die Stiftung Deutscher Nachhaltigkeitspreis e.V. erstmals den Deutschen Nachhaltigkeitspreis Architektur ausgelobt. Im Laufe der Jahre hat der Preis einen immer größeren Stellenwert bekommen und ist heute, zehn Jahre später, fest in der Architekturszene etabliert. Neben der architektonischen Qualität, sprich der baukulturellen Relevanz, bewertet die einberufene Expertenjury die eingereichten Projekte hinsichtlich ihres innovativen und zukunftsweisenden Umgangs mit dem Thema Nachhaltigkeit.

The German Sustainability Award for Architecture was introduced by the DGNB in 2013 in collaboration with the German Sustainability Award Association. This award has grown in importance ever since and now, ten years later, it has become a firmly established feature of the architecture community. Apart from assessing architectural quality, i.e. the relevance of architecture in terms of Baukultur, the jury of experts evaluates nominated projects with regard to their innovative and forward-looking approach to sustainability.

The winners of the German Sustainability Award for Architecture in interview

Four projects entered the final round of the latest award, all reflecting their exemplary method of dealing with the fabric of existing buildings. This year the award went to the Hotel Wilmina, designed by Grüntuch Ernst Architects. Prof. Almut Grüntuch-Ernst is certain that the prize will stimulate further discussion on different ways to transform buildings. “There are so many abandoned bricks in our towns and cities, although of course not everything is a good hand-me-on. What architects need to do is rise to this challenge, spot the potential and opportunity offered by existing buildings, communicate that potential and create something new. It’s worth it.”

Our summary of the last ten years not only reflects the diversity of sustainable building, but it also shows that it’s always worthwhile exploring new territory when building and daring to do things differently. Many award-winners are pioneers in a highly specialised area such as building with adobe, circular building or timber construction. One thing that’s always apparent is that holistic approaches and joining forces with all kinds of stakeholders promotes the genuine intention of those involved, culminating in high quality on all levels.

Filed under: Architecture


Christine Schröder is responsible for DGNB initiatives and networking, with an emphasis on sustainability and knowledge sharing. After studying architecture and working in Stuttgart , Berlin and London, she first developed an affection for writing during a traineeship at the publishing house Alexander Koch. For over ten years, Christine was a member of the editorial team working on the architecture journal AIT. Eventually, her passion for sustainable building led her to the DGNB.

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