It wasn’t until the extent of insect extinction was understood by the general public that people began to realise how important biodiversity has now become to all of us. Starting with the good news for anyone involved in a construction project: buildings have a significant contribution to make to the promotion of biodiversity. This is aptly demonstrated by the Biodiversity criteria introduced by the DGNB for its 2018 rework of the criteria set.
There must be a compelling reason for the DGNB to introduce a completely new criterion to its certification system. But that’s exactly what happened with Version 2018 of the DGNB System for new buildings. Our aim with the new criterion “Biodiversity” is to do justice to the importance of this area and to sensitise people commissioning and planning buildings to the fact that such factors are very much their business. In fact there a number of things they can do in this area. Consequently, the DGNB would like to inspire others and make a positive contribution towards establishing, preserving and expanding biodiversity. This can be achieved directly on or in buildings and their surroundings. We want to show how building methods can help conserve local biodiversity and improve the quality of green spaces.
There are many ways to do this. Large windows and glass panels can be designed to be clearly visible to birds so they don’t fly into them. Nesting boxes can be mounted on buildings. Surfaces can be covered in wooden panel elements instead of concrete. Green roofs and green exterior walls can be added. If a building project results in biotopes being segregated, these can be networked to facilitate genetic exchange between biological populations. The DGNB honours all these kinds of initiatives by awarding points.
Adding value to property
It’s not just the environment that benefits from biodiversity – the occupants and owners of buildings benefit too. People usually feel more comfortable in more natural surroundings. Well-being has a major influence on people’s health and performance. Positioning plants around people on the outside and inside of buildings and thinking carefully about animal welfare also reflects positively on a building. Bottom line, this also adds value to a property. Furthermore, choosing plants that blend in well and are suited to a location can help reduce follow-on costs; plants tend to be stronger, less prone to damage and easier to look after.
Invasive plant life: why it’s better to have no plants than the wrong plants
This may sound contradictory, but sometimes deciding not to introduce plants to a building may be less harmful than choosing the wrong plants. Sometimes, invasive species deliberately (or accidentally) get introduced and these squeeze out indigenous species. There’s only one way to cause more damage to biodiversity worldwide, and that is to destroy natural habitat. Protecting local plant diversity thus also entails combating invasive species. To provide an overview of the best ways to do this, the DGNB criteria include a list of 36 plants which should be avoided.
The UBi 2020 coalition for biological biodiversity
We can only keep the perceived dramatic reduction in biodiversity in check if we work in unison. This is why the DGNB is now also involved in a platform called UBi 2020. The network was launched five years ago by the Federal Ministry for the Environment with the aim of combating the loss of biodiversity. The initiative brings together a number of key players in industry and nature conservation with the aim of providing a joint platform for sharing views and inspiring others to engage in best-practice activities that will be noticed by others.
The goal of the network is to ensure biodiversity is thought about in all kinds of areas. And that includes the construction industry. By adopting this criterion in its certification system, the DGNB is undertaking an initial important step on this journey.