Buildings are a fixed asset and they don’t move much. Yet buildings do have something to do with movement, especially when it comes to the use of environmentally friendly transport. The DGNB has a criterion which is dedicated to the aspect of Mobility Infrastructure, and Version 2018 of its certification system recently adopted a number of topics that will be important in the future.
So what exactly is meant by a ‘sustainable mobility infrastructure’? According to the DGNB the following aspects are important in this respect:
- It enables users to select the most suitable mode of transport for their individual requirements.
- It helps reduce pollution caused by hazardous substances as well as other negative impacts resulting from individual travellers using engine-powered modes of transport by themselves. This can be made possible by providing choices in a building allowing people to use a variety of travel options.
- This raises the satisfaction levels of the users of a site or building by expanding affordable travel options and encouraging people to come to work by bike or on foot, thus promoting health.
It’s about more than convenient bicycle sheds
These sound like noble aims, but they are not pie in the sky and they’re certainly not rocket science. But for any dream to become a reality, buildings need to fulfil certain prerequisites. If paths are well planned, people will walk from A to B rather than drive their cars, especially over short distances. People will cycle to the office if they can shower quickly after working up a sweat and if they don’t have to worry about their bicycles being stolen from the bike shed. But ‘sustainable mobility infrastructure’ is not just about ensuring people are being provided with the right facilities for their bicycles.
Our travel options are changing fundamentally and individual buildings are becoming much more important than they have ever been. The pace of technological development is now extremely fast and as a result, even the people who commission buildings are having to put more thought into changing travel habits. The criterion used for the DGNB System shows how. It rewards a whole series of measures that make a tangible contribution to adopting green travel solutions. It does this by furnishing building owners with specific and implementable ideas on how to prepare buildings for future requirements.
Travel sharing – making it easy to lend and borrow
Imagine you could just walk out of the front door and find a vehicle you can borrow for the day just a few steps away. Something like a car, scooter or bike. Nothing could be easier. The DGNB believes that provided with the right options, many more people would be willing to share a vehicle and do without their own. This is why certification offers bonus points if there are transport-sharing options and easily accessible vehicle spaces next to a building or directly outside the entrance. Projects are also looked at positively if a building stands in a business district covered by a ‘free-floating car-sharing’ scheme.
Don’t forget charging stations
Of course not everyone can afford to (or wants to) do without their car. But if a car is a must, then it should be sustainable – so it should at least be electric. This is one area where planners have a strong influence on decision-making. Electric cars will only catch on if drivers can charge their cars anywhere and anytime. This is why the DGNB supports demands for a federal programme to set up more charging stations. This would establish a end-to-end charging infrastructure spanning 15,000 stations in Germany. If somebody is planning to construct a sustainable building, it should go without saying that they should plan in sufficient charging stations.
V2G – a car battery can be an energy storage device
If people want to take things to the next level, there are vehicle-to-grid (V2G) charging stations. As the name suggests, this is about plugging vehicles into an electricity grid. The V2G concept involves using car batteries to store energy and temporarily put electricity aside at low cost. Energy can be fed back into the electricity grid again later when it’s needed.
This technology offers a number of other advantages: for example the electricity grid becomes more stable because it doesn’t depend on a small number of energy suppliers. Also, it softens the impact of power failures and providers don’t have to switch off wind turbines if there’s nowhere to store energy. The V2G scheme thus helps secure the future viability of a sustainable energy industry. That said, the programme will only work if new buildings start supporting this technology today. This is why under the latest version of its criteria set, the DGNB rewards the preparatory equipping of bidirectional charging and discharging systems for electric vehicles.
Many roads lead to new travel solutions
We would never want to claim that these and other criteria address absolutely every issue. Planners and architects should and indeed can find different ways to motivate the people who use buildings to make regular and more widespread use of environmentally friendly networks. But if the approach taken towards construction succeeds in motivating people to walk to work more, hop on a bike or bus, or use a car-sharing scheme, this will also be scored positively. The overall idea of the DGNB is to promote innovative concepts when it comes to travel solutions, and this should highlight how important this aspect is for the future viability of our cities.
Climate change can only be curbed if lots of people change their habits. But people prefer easy options. If it’s easier to get into their own cars, people won’t borrow or share one. If it’s less complicated topping up with petrol than with electricity, we won’t see more electric cars on the roads. So we have to provide alternatives and incentives. Directly on or just outside buildings. But to do this, the people who commission buildings have to be prepared to go one step further. Under DGNB certification, they will certainly be rewarded for this.