I’m getting tired of hearing it. Anyone who, like me, is strongly committed to more sustainability on the one hand and moderates discussion groups quite frequently on the other, encounters it again and again: this annoying “we have to”. My theory: It’s of no use to anyone. Except perhaps those who say it. But let’s take it one step at a time. Last week, I had the privilege of moderating two rounds at the Expo Real real estate and investor fair. In principle, they went well and were entertaining – at least that was the feedback I received afterwards. And to a large extent I would agree with that. If it weren’t for the unkindness that tends to run rampant at such panels. We have to do more, they say. We have to act faster. We have to do whatever. To make sure that the urgency of the “we must” really gets through, the voice rises, it becomes louder and more insistent. Because we have to. And everyone should finally understand. Who is “we” in …
Without carbon sinks, we will not achieve the climate goals. This was the clear message made in the World Climate Report written by international scientists. By using the right construction methods, buildings have the ability to store carbon in the long term and thus offer major potential. Experts discussed how this can be achieved at the DGNB Annual Congress.
Issues surrounding sustainable financing have been edging closer and closer to the building and property industry in recent years. If you’re an investor, or at a big company, the term sustainable finance will meet you at every corner. To dig deeper, experts at the DGNB Annual Congress talked about their everyday experience in this area.
Our environment has a significant influence on physical and mental well-being – often without us realising it, or recognising the causes. The building and property industry thus bears an important responsibility when it comes to planning and designing urban spaces – indoors and outdoors. At the DGNB Annual Congress, Professor Eckart von Hirschhausen (founder of the Healthy Planet – Healthy People Foundation, or GEGM), Professor Mazda Adli (Fliedner Hospital, Berlin) and Rudi Scheuermann (Arup) explained how our well-being is impaired by external influences of city life. They also considered ways to make city life more enjoyable.
Time and again we see evidence that we stopped expecting buildings to last for eternity many years ago. No sooner the first signs of patina appear on a building – after twenty, thirty or forty years – people start discussing whether it should be torn down, or whether it would make sense to renovate it after all. In a recent interview, DGNB CEO Dr Christine Lemaitre and Thomas Auer, professor for climate-friendly building at the Technical University of Munich, explained why that doesn’t have to be the case.
It’s been a good two weeks since the Wilmina Hotel received the German Sustainability Award (GSA) in the category for architecture. The bestowal of this award – for the conversion of a former women’s prison in the Berlin suburb of Charlottenburg – follows in the steps of some prodigious projects over the past ten years. Looking back, it’s clear that many of the projects that have won the award were ahead of their time. They also helped trigger debate that is as pertinent today as it has ever been.
For days now, everywhere we look we’re forced to hear outcry, warnings and worries about changes to building efficiency funding – the German BEG scheme for new buildings. The criticism being levelled at the new rule, which means subsidies will only be awarded if sustainability factors are taken into account, comes in as many guises as the topic of sustainable construction itself. We no longer want to watch what is happening without passing comment.
What we’re hearing isn’t surprising – sadly – but that doesn’t make it any less shocking or, above all, any less significant: the Sixth Assessment Report on the world climate puts an end to the era of climate change denial. To maintain tolerable levels of life on Earth, decisive action is required now. The only real option available to us is to systematically cut carbon emissions. This is where action is called for across the entire building sector – and time is running out.
The German government has presented the results of its 2020 climate targets. The building sector failed to make the grade. What this means in tangible terms is that simply carrying on as before is not even an option. Immediate action is required. Which means a plan now – as in the next three months. It is therefore quite fitting that – practically simultaneously – the DGNB, Environmental Action Germany (DUH) and the Federal Chamber of Architects (BAK) presented a position paper that is ideal for exactly that.
Too many firms are still going about business in ways that lead to exploitation of both people and nature. This also applies to the construction industry. Long overdue, the proposed Supply Chain Actin in Germany will bring us a step closer to focusing more attention on this issue. But the requirements still fall short in terms of consistency. The DGNB has a clear vision of what a fair supply chain looks like, and it continues to appeal for more voluntary action.
With its Green Deal, the EU under the leadership of Ursula von der Leyen has caused quite a stir. When it comes to climate protection and sustainability, there’s a new spirit of optimism. It’s right and important that the building industry plays a central role on this path to becoming the ‘first carbon-neutral continent’. The penny has finally dropped and not been ‘lobbied off the stage’ by reservations and objections.
“I would like to build more sustainably, but the costs…”: The fear of additional costs due to sustainability often leads to doubts and hesitations during planning and implementation. A new study from Denmark now shows with regard to new building construction that this is unfounded. Here it becomes clear: more sustainable does not equal more expensive. On the contrary.
Buildings contain a lot of material. These in turn are valuable resources that are becoming increasingly scarce and are responsible for many CO2 emissions. Structural engineers can counteract this consumption of materials on a massive scale. At least that is how professor Patrick Teuffel sees it. We spoke with him about built heavyweights and the current state of research in the world of materials.
At the moment we have less of a feeling that we could shape our own future. But crises force us to rethink our practice. Today, it is still possible to ignore climate-related issues in planning. But we can change that now – if we want to.
Architects and specialist planners involved in the Phase Sustainability initiative ‘met up’ for the first time on 28 July. The main idea of the get-together was to share people’s experiences dealing with sustainability issues when building. By the end of the day, the participants had benefited from a number of long-overdue discussions and gained many valuable insights. Time for Phase Sustainability to enter the next round.
As of 2022, all non-residential buildings in Baden-Wuerttemberg that apply for planning permission will be obliged to install photovoltaic (PV) units on a roof area suitable for solar energy systems. This applies to everything from production halls to supermarkets and office buildings. The new requirement was agreed recently by the state government. The DGNB welcomes this move, which it sees as a step in the right direction. All levers now need to be pulled to meet the 2050 climate protection goals. Naturally, this includes the use of solar energy – and there are many more options.
Changing travel infrastructures, the green energy transition, climate protection, demand for affordable housing, civil participation schemes, digital transformation – the major challenges of our time are part and parcel of life in the city and conurbations. A great deal has already been undertaken to translate sustainable urban development into action on a municipal level. And demands to do something are no less pressing given the COVID-19 pandemic. Now it’s important to promote transformative power in government administration!
Many architecture departments have yet to develop a proper understanding of the role played by sustainability in teaching and research. It’s such an important opportunity to introduce young people to the topic early and pave the way for the future. All universities should place climate protection and the conservation of resources high on their agenda.
Building material recycling, gold of pleasure and green hydrogen: these elements gave three finalists of the DGNB Sustainability Challenge 2019 victory in their respective categories of research, innovation and start-up. It is now almost a year since their presentation at the DGNB Sustainability Day. Reason enough to take a look at how their innovations for more sustainability in the construction and real estate industry have developed since then.
What are we doing anyway? This is the question I kept asking myself after going to this year’s UN Climate Change Conference (COP25) in Madrid. Last weekend the COP25 drew to a close, once again without any real results or ambition to show for its efforts. After three days at the conference, this came as no surprise. But instead of shying away from this painful topic, it is now time for some honesty and openness.
Very few could claim to have influenced German sustainable building developments in Germany as much as Prof. Alexander Rudolphi. To the DGNB, he has been an initiator, founding member and president in one – from the very start. His was reappointed to his post in 2019. We spoke to Rudolphi at the Expo Real trade show in Munich, took a snapshot together and looked beyond the horizon.
In recent years, the term “circular economy” has become increasingly widespread and has also reached the construction industry. There are a variety of levers for implementing the concept in the construction and real estate sector. In the report “Circular Economy – Closing loops means being fit for the future“, the DGNB has gathered these levers and addresses the relevant stakeholders whose support and participation is required for a transition towards a circular economy. Furthermore, the DGNB provides a toolbox that shows how the idea of circular economy can be realised in concrete projects in practice. Key message: the transition is actually possible, every single step counts, but we can only succeed if we cooperate.
The average person spends up to 90 per cent of their life indoors. Or looked at another way: buildings have a major influence on our health, productivity and ability to enjoy some rest and recuperation. The DGNB has recently written a new report showing how to arrange the planning, building and operational aspects of a building in such a way that it promotes human well-being and even takes individual requirements into consideration.
Thinking consciously about how natural resources are used has always been a core topic at the DGNB. Right from the beginning, the DGNB has offered a certification system that favours a holistic approach to carbon footprints. Therefore, this has always involved not only the conscious selection of building materials according to their composition and origin, but also a methodical assessment of the ‘reclaimability’ of individual residual materials – all based on strict criteria, criteria that have thus become established in the market.
Around a year ago on 1 January 2016, the United Nation’s landmark 2030 Agenda came into effect. The initiative lays down meaningful goals and targets for the future development of our planet with the aim of changing long-term thinking and thus facilitates life in a world of sustainability. The UN’s 17 objectives are called the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and each is broken down into a total of 169 targets. These will be used by the UN and its member states to provide development guidelines for the next 15 years. The goals have also provided a foundation for the German government’s recently updated 2016 National Sustainable Development Strategy.
Sustainability means setting new goals because the old goals are no longer viable. The new goals focus on the entire life cycle and take the common good into account. Our society in its current form is characterised by security, freedom and prosperity. Sustainability is a question of preserving this civilizational project – which we are all part of – and helping it evolve for the future. Up until now our model of society has been based on the assumption that resources are unlimited. Or to put it differently, the structure of our society is resource-ignorant. Now we are worried about climate change and its global impacts on our lives. So we are looking at how we can continue to live in safety, freedom and prosperity despite a change in the availability of the things we have come to depend on in our lives. For a long time we have believed we could solve this problem with technology. But technology can only ever do as much as the society which uses it – and societies mostly …
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?
Two degrees doesn’t sound like a lot. Two is a fairly small number, after all. But how will a rise of two degrees Celsius in global temperatures change our lives and the world? In this case, less is actually more, as Dr Anna Braune, Head of Research & Trends at the German Sustainable Building Council (DGNB), points out in her commentary on the Paris climate accord signed today in New York.