Buildings In Use, Climate Positive
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The path to making all existing buildings carbon-neutral

DGNB System for Buildings in Use

All existing buildings in use in Germany must be carbon-neutral by 2050. This is truly a Herculean task for the entire construction and real estate industry. For building owners, users and real-estate portfolio owners, this means their CO2 balance at the end of the year for ongoing building operations must be zero. For this to succeed, a targeted, holistic and, at the same time, building-specific approach to sustainable optimisation is needed. The system’s solution here is simple.

The potential existing buildings offer to achieve our climate-action goals is immense. What is missing, however, are proactive steps to solve the problem. One reason for this: It is difficult to find viable instruments with a holistic perspective in this regard. That is exactly where the new version of the DGNB System for Buildings In Use comes into play.

DGNB System for Buildings In Use

Projects can now be registered for certification according to the new market version for buildings in use.

The system is designed as a transformation and management tool for practical application. It is intended to support owners, portfolio owners and operators in the development of a future-proof, climate-action-based property strategy. The most economical approach should also be identified and users should be included. The aim is to create transparency and highlight optimisation potential. Four points indicate the path to success:

1. Creation of a transparent data basis

In order to be able to make informed decisions, you first have to determine where you currently stand with your building or your entire portfolio. It is not enough to rely on rough reference values and projections. In order to be able to act in a target-oriented manner, transparent knowledge of the building and its actual characteristics, the usage situation and the real consumption parameters is central. This is the only way to minimise risks and enable investment security.

2. Plan-Do-Check-Act or: How to manage your existing buildings actively

For a large part of all existing buildings – especially older buildings – the data will show that there is still a long way to go before climate neutrality. With regard to aspects such as water and recycling management, the target and actual values may also differ widely. But this is no reason to shy away from the challenge. With regard to all criteria, the most important thing is a systematic approach that takes into account the condition of the building as well as user needs and economy. For this reason, the criteria in the DGNB System for Buildings In Use are mainly based on the “Plan-Do-Check-Act” management system. This approach ensures a continuous improvement process. In specific terms this means:

  • PLAN: Set a specific goal for your consumption and costs or the respective criterion.
  • DO: Collect all measurement data.
  • CHECK: Evaluate the data. It is important that you evaluate the data both quantitatively in the form of a target/actual comparison and qualitatively by interpreting and plausibility checking the data.
  • ACT: Have you achieved your goals? If not, take measures to optimise operations so that they can be achieved in the next cycle. Point 3 is critical here.

3. Involve all the participants

It is central to all steps that all actors are involved in the process. The potential can only be fully exploited if owners, operators and users pull together. Clear agreements ensure smooth processes from the provision of data to the implementation of the measures.

4. Become climate neutral

The DGNB Climate Positive award

The DGNB Climate Positive award

Such an approach within the framework of the DGNB certification for buildings in use helps to ensure that the major goal of climate neutrality in building operations can be achieved reliably – and in accordance with economic goals and user needs. Buildings whose operation already demonstrably meets these requirements based on their real consumption data are also rewarded by the system. They receive the DGNB Climate Positive award. It recognises the positive contribution that these buildings are already making to achieving climate-action goals.

Nine criteria for sustainable building operations

Overall, the DGNB System for Buildings In Use focuses on all sustainability-related topics in nine criteria. You can find out exactly which criteria are included and why it is worthwhile for everyone involved to engage with them in our series of articles on quality dimensions in building operations following this blog post. In the first part, we start by looking at the ecological perspective.

Filed under: Buildings In Use, Climate Positive


Levke Maria Kehl works for the DGNB as an editor in the PR, Communications and Marketing department. It is particularly important to her to present topics in an appealing and entertaining way and at the same time to prepare them in a way that is appropriate for the target group and channel. Driven by her keen interest in the topic of sustainability, she joined DGNB as a working student during her communications management studies.

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1 Comment

  1. Subhi Qahawish says

    It is very important to start thinking how to renovate the existing buildings as green buildings .
    It needs more scientific studies to get the best practical approach to develope.
    This needs support from the local governments to implement
    Best wishes and good luck

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