DGNB, Impulse
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BIM, sustainability and certification

The building and property sectors have been grappling with the topic of building information modelling (BIM) for several years now. But what does BIM mean for manufacturers, architects and planners – not to mention for building operators? Who can afford BIM? And what role does the German Sustainable Building Council (DGNB) play in the discussions surrounding BIM?

“BIM will change the way we work,” agreed the participants at this year’s DGNB Impulse Sessions on the topic of digitalisation. But it’s not clear how significant the changes will be. On the other hand, it is clear that there’s a lot of uncertainty and no one is sure what the future holds. This isn’t just a few sceptics trying to be critical, this came from a representative group consisting of professionals from different fields, starting with manufacturers and planners and extending all the way to building operators. In other words, from a group of people who have to be actively part of BIM.

BIM and sustainability

DGNB Impulse Session on digitalisation: can BIM
and sustainability go hand in hand?

Until now, BIM has not included any data specifically relating to sustainability. This needs to change, because if we don’t make the processes of sustainable building an integral part of BIM today, it will be difficult or even impossible to introduce them later on down the road. So where specifically can BIM and the DGNB planning process dovetail?

Johannes Gantner of the Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics (IBP) is currently doing research on a BIM reference property in Germany. The aim with the development is to apply the building information modelling methodology – also taking sustainability factors into account – drawing on specific building projects as examples.

Johannes Gantner, MSc Fraunhofer Institute for
Building Physics (IBP)

The research is based on the DGNB criteria set for office buildings, divided into new buildings, existing buildings and modernisations. His analysis shows that a large amount of the information necessary for sustainability certification can be directly and automatically derived from a BIM model. So using BIM would dramatically reduce the amount of work needed for DGNB certification, while at the same time boosting the quality and consistency of the sustainability data.

A bridge between building itself and construction materials

The DGNB Navigator is the DGNB platform
for construction products

Linking up with a platform like the DGNB Navigator is essential so that projects can incorporate reliable sustainability data from day one. The DGNB Navigator builds an important bridge between construction products and the DGNB certification system by providing the data that is required for building certification.

Our Swiss neighbours are one step ahead of us on this front. Heinz Bernegger, Managing Director of the Swiss Sustainable Building Council (SGNI), a system partner to the DGNB, reported that BIM has already been integrated into applicable certification systems in Switzerland. Furthermore, major building owners have agreed that all developments must be based on BIM. This ultimately reduces the cost drivers of certification itself.

Is BIM right for everyone?

As BIM and the related technical changes gain ground, a structural transformation is underway, posing different questions and challenges for all of the parties involved.

Material manufacturers:

  • They are the first link in the chain, because they provide products and entire systems – nevertheless, there is an onus on planners to clearly define requirements so manufacturers end up delivering the right data
  • Formats have not yet been clearly defined and this stands in the way of smooth processes with BIM

Architects and planners:

  • They believe BIM offers a major opportunity for integral planning and the DGNB
  • They are concerned about whether the planning process will be independent of manufacturer and whether non-proprietary data will be available in BIM
  • The question that will determine the future for many is who pays for BIM and who profits from it ­– the HOAI schedule of services and fees for architects and engineers will need to regulate fee issues in the future

Operators and facility managers:

  • They believe it is essential to set up a central registry to ensure there is uniform documentation
  • Responsibilities have not yet been clearly defined
  • Policymakers are pushing forward with this issue, so as of 2020, BIM will have to be used for all newly planned projects of the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure. What should be done in the face of such pressure? Is leasing instead of purchasing the first approach in dealing with BIM?

All these different aspects show that BIM is an issue that concerns many. And for exactly this reason the DGNB is actively working with its members, who represent the entire value chain of the building and property market, to determine how best to systematically integrate BIM solutions into sustainability certification for buildings. Everyone involved in this area would like the DGNB to serve as a networking channel between BIM and everyone working in construction. Another DGNB workshop will attempt to flesh out this position in the coming months. One thing is already clear: BIM will change the way we work, but we are also in a position to determine the direction and scope of this change.

Filed under: DGNB, Impulse


Johannes Kreißig is considered a pioneer of sustainable building in Germany. As one of the initiators of the DGNB, he played a pivotal role in its foundation in 2007 and has been a permanent member of the Management Board ever since. Kreißig has been the managing director of DGNB GmbH since 2016 and his areas of responsibility include the DGNB System, the DGNB Academy and the DGNB Navigator. He previously worked as a director of business development at thinkstep, formerly known as PE International. Kreißig is also an active member of a number of councils and committees, such as the World Green Building Council.

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