DGNB CEO Dr Christine Lemaitre was joined by four architects at Expo Real 2019 to discuss ‘Sustainable Architecture in the Future’ and how this dovetails with their responsibilities, current trends and strategies. They also talked about how sustainability can become the new normal in construction.
Ask Markus Müller, president of the Chamber of Architects Baden-Württemberg (AKBW), Stefan Rappold of Behnisch architects, Stefan Sinning of Henn Architects, or Gerhard Wittfeld of kadawittfeldarchitektur about sustainable architecture, and there’s one issue they stopped thinking about a long time ago: WHY? “Good architecture is inconceivable without sustainability.” They all agree on that one. When Müller talks about buildings that “last for a long time, were designed meaningfully and take due account of different aspects – so that people find them good thanks to their materials, the role they play in their city, and functions that make sense”, one begins to wonder why building owners are not raising their hands everywhere and shouting “count me in!” Or why sustainable building has not been the logical norm for a long time now.
Climate protection is en vogue
All the same: “Greta Thunberg is in our heads now. You even notice it when you speak to clients,” says Sinning. Despite this, there’s still a chasm between paying lip service to climate protection and actually doing something about it. The panellists speak from experience. They have all been talking up sustainability in architecture for years, and have already implemented a number of developments that show how it can be done.
The big question: How?
When it comes to sustainable architecture in the future, the question on the tip of everyone’s tongue is not WHY? but HOW? How will we communicate this issue to a wider audience? How will we achieve carbon neutrality for buildings that already exist unless we receive significant government support? And, first and foremost: How can we gain buy-in from building owners and clients? One thing that is immediately apparent is that there is no single solution. Instead, architects have developed individual strategies and have come up with some groundbreaking ideas.
Sustainable architecture in the future: unabridged panel discussion (in German)
Good endings are also about good beginnings
Sinning believes the key to success lies in setting the bar high when a project gets underway and sees this as the responsibility of architects: “Our job is to start by positioning the ideas – like carthorses that pull the project in the right direction. And of course we have to set high standards that everyone can aspire to.” Sinning also emphasises the necessity of expert knowledge and teamwork. Henn Architects have set up their own project team to work on sustainability.
Rappold is of a similar opinion. If sustainability goals are not established at the beginning, “we never get them back in again”. It is challenging enough maintaining standards. In the future he would like to see more creativity and people exchanging information so they can tackle these issues together. At the same time, we need “lighthouses – sources of inspiration that take things one step further and set new benchmarks”.
More fact-based decision-making
Wittfeld appealed for the opposite approach: “We should give our business partners the opportunity to grow with the projects.” He explained how he has had positive experiences with sustainability issues when they are implemented over the course of the process. If they are confronted with the topic right at the beginning, people get defensive because of its immense complexity. For Wittfeld, the big concepts that delimit the profession of architects are procedures, credibility and public image. He also highlights practical advantages and knowledge acquisition: “So for example sickness levels going down in a building is the kind of argument we can all use to bring people on board.”
Pulling together and focusing
Finally, Müller underscored the strong potential that construction holds for shaping the future: “We have to see architecture as an industry of innovation, to think about the future and to approach things with a sense of optimism.” In saying this, his sights are not just set on the construction of buildings, but also overarching strategies within the context of urban development. He believes architects need to feel they share a common responsibility for the greater good; people need to talk about these issues in order to move things forward and close the door on the past in all areas.
‘Phase Sustainability’ – the time has come
Exchanging information, sharing experiences, standing shoulder to shoulder, establishing a common frame of reference – a new initiative is aiming to pull together all these important aspects. Here we are of course referring to Phase Sustainability. Launched by the DGNB in collaboration with the Federal Chamber of Architects (BAK), the Phase Sustainability initiative was officially unveiled at Expo Real 2019. To watch individual interviews with Markus Müller, Stefan Sinning and Stefan Rappold (in German), go to our YouTube channel.