DGNB, DGNB System Version 2018
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LCC – or, how do I ask the right questions about costs?

Whether people like it or not, sustainable buildings still have to be judged by how economical they are. For us, this means the DGNB System is not just built on two pillars – environmental quality, next to sociocultural and functional quality; there’s a third key pillar about financial viability: economic quality. One important factor when it comes to economic quality is the criterion Life Cycle Costing (LCC).

At 10 per cent, this issue has the highest weighting as a proportion of the overall evaluation – and quite rightly so, because it helps organisations pose honest questions and consider the entire life cycle of a building. It also deals with worries that sustainable building has to be more expensive than conventional construction.

In the run-up to Version 2018, we re-examined everything we have experienced and learnt over the last ten years and asked ourselves some simple questions: Why are we actually doing this? What are we trying to achieve or change? What sense does it make looking at something like cleaning costs further down the line when evaluating the sustainability of a new building?

Considering costs extends beyond construction

The logic behind the numbers is now understood by many. The costs of operating a building far outweigh the initial construction costs. Not only that, but many operating outlays are caused by the course set during the planning phase or arise when the building is under construction. As a consequence, for costs to be genuinely transparent, it’s only logical that outlays are considered for the entire life cycle of a building. Even during the planning phase, you have to investigate aspects that could become costly later on.

We’ve designed Version 2018 to help you do precisely that. Which factors have an influence on life cycle costs, and can any ‘tweaks’ be made to make things right and proper? We have laid down new benchmarks to pinpoint the scores that can be achieved with a ‘good’ building. We also highlight strategies that make it possible to fulfil benchmarks during certification and achieve the corresponding target values. We want to make it as easy as possible for architects, planners and the owners of buildings to pull all the right levers and plan with a clear understanding of the long-term implications of their ideas.

It’s important to consider follow-on costs during the early stages of planning and explore different ways to keep the life cycle impact to a minimum. This is because it’s relatively easy and inexpensive to make changes during the early stages of a development. If you ask the right questions at the beginning – such as how easy it will be to clean glass panels and windows, or how complex or costly it will be to service technical equipment, or whether there are suitable maintenance procedures, or how energy, water and waste water costs can be minimised – you’ll have a feel for the long-term cost of operating a building.

A definite advantage for operators

One new factor that was introduced for Version 2018 is the added value a building offers to the people who operate or manage it. Certain data has to be gathered for assessment anyway, and this can be used to work out factors that are crucial when it comes to operating a building. This gives operators a kind of roadmap for working out any costs that may arise, so they know fairly precisely what they will need to prepare for. Given the fact that people who operate buildings also have their own targets to work to, the DGNB System now also provides welcome support with the practical aspects of managing a facility after it has been erected.

Collect more points

If you look as closely as possible at costs early on in the process – for example by calculating the impact of different scenarios – you can already earn 20 per cent of the points within this important criterion. There are also concrete recommendations on the different ways to collect the points.

We want to foster a culture of planning that asks an important question: what can we do to make things better? This is why this approach is particularly important to us. When we looked at the calculation methods, we were extremely open in order to make the process more straightforward. We actually don’t mind whether people base their documentation on our system or follow alternative, verifiable approaches – at least not for some of the indicators.

But we’re convinced that sustainable building does not have to be more expensive than approaches that are still conventional today. It’s worth planning carefully and going back to plans a second time. From the very beginning, the rewards are greater if you lay all the information on the table.

Filed under: DGNB, DGNB System Version 2018


As environmental engineer, Dr. Anna Braune has a deep understanding of both, environmental effects and issues and technical expertise on processing, using and disposal of natural and industrial goods. With a focus on the built environment, she gained vast experiences by assessing technologies, building elements, entire buildings and sites using environmental Life Cycle Assessment methodologies, substance assessments, and others. Being very business-oriented, she always keeps economic constraints and opportunities in mind when proposing environmental preferable solutions. From July 2007 until October 2008 she was the Initiator and Founding CEO of the German Sustainable Building Council. From November 2008 until June 2015 she was at PE INTERNATIONAL AG as responsible Project Manager and as Principal Consultant. In September 2015 she joined the DGNB again and is now Head of Research and Trends at the DGNB.

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