Climate Action, Climate Positive, DGNB, Phase Sustainability, Sustainable Building
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Building and biodiversity – our commitment

The 15th UN Biodiversity Conference has been rescheduled to take place in October of this year in the Chinese city of Kunming. At the conference – known as the CBD COP 15 – member states will set a new 10-year strategy until 2030. Currently, the DGNB is the only association in the building sector to have made a clear commitment to the CBD. Why? Because there are many overlaps between building and biodiversity – as this post explains in a nutshell.

The 1992 Rio Earth Summit not only fired the starting gun for the world of politics when it comes to climate protection, it also made a clear signal regarding biodiversity. 196 countries signed the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in 1992. All were subsequently expected to plan domestic strategies. The CBD covers three main areas, reflecting in concise terms what is actually meant by the now much-used term ‘biodiversity’:

  1. The conservation of biological diversity, natural habitats and all genetic materials
  2. The sustainable use of the components of biological diversity, such as forests, rivers, oceans, wildlife and plants
  3. The fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the use of genetic resources
Goal 15 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) also addresses the issue of biodiversity. As the SDG Report 2020 highlights, we still have a long way to go!

Figure 1: Goal 15 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) also addresses the issue of biodiversity. As the SDG Report 2020 highlights, we still have a long way to go! | Source: https://unstats.un.org/sdgs/report/2020/

This is not just about green facades or living walls

This year marks the 15th meeting of the CBD. The DGNB has taken this as an opportunity to write and publish its commitment to this important issue. It has been committed for many years to the protection of biodiversity in construction, based on a holistic approach that addresses a host of facets covered by this topic.

These include obvious measures on or around buildings, such as maintaining green spaces that are permeable to water and air. Ensuring outdoor surfaces are not covered up or sealed helps promote plant life and provides natural habitats for wildlife. But just as importantly, however, this extends to aspects that are less obvious at first glance, such as ‘habitat connectivity’ (ensuring plants or animal species do not exist in isolation), long-term biodiversity strategies and instructions on looking after nature.

The DGNB Certification System goes into more detail on biodiversity issues affecting building

The DGNB Certification System goes into more detail on biodiversity issues affecting building

Given the increasing number of greening measures being introduced in towns and cities, it’s particularly important to consider factors such as a building’s ability to actually adapt to climate change. Also, given the nature of building life cycles, biodiversity issues affect construction materials at all stages of the value and supply chain. Accordingly, more emphasis should be given to such concepts. To motivate building owners to consider all of these issues, two DGNB Certification Systems – for Districts and New Construction of Buildings – include criteria that specifically address biodiversity, sustainable resource extraction and other such factors.

A commitment to more engagement

This is just the beginning of our journey and we have decided to introduce further measures to coincide with the CBD. We’re doing this because we feel biodiversity still receives far too little attention in the building sector. The DGNB is the only representative of this industry to have made a public commitment to the CBD. We point to ten issues this touches on:

  1. New partnerships with towns and cities, the producers of building materials, the financial sector and other stakeholders with the aim of bolstering commitment to biodiversity
  2. Motivating all key stakeholders to make a commitment to biodiversity as part of a collaborative process – we want at least 100 signatories to come on board by 2022
  3. Binding support from key influencers in our network in order to encourage their own members to make a commitment to biodiversity
  4. Establishing this topic as an integral part of DGNB initiatives such as Phase Sustainability and Klimapositive Städte und Gemeinden (Climate-Positive Cities and Communities)
  5. Promoting knowledge-sharing by expanding the services of the DGNB Academy
  6. Sharing examples of best practice with a bearing on biodiversity
  7. Ongoing updates to and development of DGNB Certification Systems to address on-site and supply chain biodiversity
  8. Expanding committee work and ongoing communication in order to share biodiversity topics with our members and the overall DGNB network
  9. Drafting good practice guidelines for the construction and property industry
  10. Full transparency with regard to progress

COP 15 – ambition starts in the here and now

Our hope with all this is that governmental leaders will sharpen their pencils and demonstrate ambition in drafting international strategies for protecting the flora and fauna on which life on this planet depends. In parallel, we are adhering to an important principle we ascribe to: act in the here and now. This is because biodiversity loss does not pause and wait for decisions to be made at the next COP. And what commitments are you making?

More reading on biodiversity (and building)

Interested in delving deeper into this topic? We’ve pulled together some interesting reading for you.

  • The DGNB System for New Construction of Buildings, criteria ENV2.4 (biodiversity at the site) and ENV1.3 (sustainable resource extraction). Ask for your own copy of the catalogue here.
  • The DGNB System for Districts, criterion ENV2.4 (biodiversity). Request your own copy of the catalogue here.
  • SDG 15: Life on Land. United Nations
  • Introduction to the EU Taxonomy on Biodiversity and Ecosystems. Report issued by Naturschutzbund Deutschland e.V. (NABU). Available as a PDF here.
  • Living Planet Report of the WWF
  • Convention on Biological Diversity
Filed under: Climate Action, Climate Positive, DGNB, Phase Sustainability, Sustainable Building

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Dr. Christine Lemaitre was born in Gießen, Germany in 1975 and studied structural engineering at the University of Stuttgart from 1995 to 2000. After working in the USA for two years as structural engineer, she started in 2003 working at the Institute of Lightweight Structures Design and Construction at the University of Stuttgart as a research and teaching assistant. In 2007, she started as a project manager for R&D at Bilfinger Berger AG in the area of resource efficient buildings. She completed her phd thesis on adaptive lightweight structures in 2008. In January 2009 she took on the role as director certification system of the German Sustainable Building Council. Since February 2010 Dr. Christine Lemaitre is the CEO of the German Sustainable Building Council. Since 2013 she is member of the board of directors of the Sustainable Building Alliance. From 2015 until June 2019 she was Chair of the European Regional Network (ERN) of the World Green Building Council. Since 2016 she is board member of the World Green Building Council (WGBC).

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