Promoting sustainability – including in construction – is a self-declared goal of the European Union. Therefore, the project LIFE Level(s) was launched in 2019 to raise awareness for the topic among an interested public as well as the groups of actors involved in the construction of buildings. The findings of the project, which is scheduled to run until the end of 2022, have already resulted in a number of tools and publications for practical use. Reason enough to draw an interim conclusion.
The way countries build and operate in the European Union is not particularly sustainable: if everyone lived like people in the EU, the world’s population would need 3.2 Earths to meet its demand for raw materials and ecosystem services (calculated on the basis of current data on country-specific overshoot days). With regard to climate change and resource security, the EU wants to change this and initiate a transition to a resource-conserving, sustainable circular economy.
The European framework Level(s) published in 2020 is particularly relevant for the building sector. It defines what sustainability actually means in relation to buildings throughout the EU and how it should be documented. The framework is based on six overarching goals:
- Evaluation of greenhouse gas emissions over the entire life cycle of the building
- Analysis of the life cycle of materials
- Improving water use efficiency
- Promoting healthy and comfortable spaces
- Increasing climate change adaptation and resilience
- Consideration of life cycle costs of a building
The Level(s) framework identifies a total of 16 indicators for these six overarching objectives. The indicators Life Cycle Analysis (LCA), Life Cycle Costing (LCC) and Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) are key indicators that receive special attention in the Life for LCA LCC Level(s) project (LIFE Level(s) for short). In addition to the DGNB, seven other Green Building Councils from Europe are participating in LIFE Level(s). The aim of the project is to establish sustainable buildings more firmly in the EU member states through greater awareness and the use of the Level(s) framework for reporting sustainability qualities of buildings.
A particular focus of the project is on the topics of planning and procurement – especially by public institutions: By including them in the early planning phases, the potential of the indicators can be optimally exploited with the help of the Level(s) reporting framework. The public sector in particular plays a central role in the LIFE Level(s) project due to the large procurement volume, the associated leverage effect and its exemplary function.
In order to facilitate the integration of the indicators in practice, the DGNB has drafted a handout on sustainability-oriented planning and procurement (available in German only), which includes two checklists with concrete measures and instructions for action. The handout can be downloaded here free of charge.
An industry in transition
How the indicators and overarching goals can be taken into account was also conveyed in three DGNB pilot training courses for building product manufacturers, planners and building contractors as well as for cities and municipalities, the feedback from which offers exciting insights into the development of the industry: “The training courses met with a great response and showed clear signs of an industry in transition with a will to transform,” sums up Dr. Anna Braune, Head of Research and Development at the DGNB. “We are pleased that we were able to familiarise numerous players from the construction and real estate industry with the Level(s) reporting framework as part of the LIFE Level(s) project and raise awareness of life cycle considerations in planning and procurement processes. Also, the great interest in the topic shows that further offers will be necessary to simply break down the complex and constantly evolving framework and make it usable for practice”.
Best Practice Guide
Anyone looking for examples where the integration of at least one of the three indicators has already been successfully implemented will find what they are looking for in the Best Practice Guide. This was recently published jointly by all project partners and presents nine examples from Europe, including two from Germany. The presentation of the examples also includes a summary of the experiences from the planning and procurement process in the projects. The guide can be downloaded here (also free of charge).