DGNB, DGNB System Version 2018
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Planning in the early stages – or why a well-prepared project brief is crucial to sustainability

Thorough preparation is indispensable – and this is especially true with a development project. The early stages of planning are decisive for a high-quality building. The DGNB addresses the relevance of the various aspects of planning for sustainable construction, for example with three criteria: comprehensive project brief; sustainability aspects in tender phase; and urban planning and design procedure.

Integral planning is an essential constituent of a good building. If all parties get together as early as possible, they can develop solutions together and make the right decisions. This and the important ‘Phase 0’ are therefore rewarded in the DGNB certification system.

Requirements planning, specifications and informing the public

The DGNB uses the comprehensive project brief criterion to assess three factors, all of which ensure that the project is prepared in the best possible way. The first factor is determining the exact requirements. With this criterion, the DGNB provides a template for comprehensive requirement planning spanning ten groups of topics, including financial conditions and the time frame, the plot of land and surroundings, and effects on the environment. Conducting a market analysis, an environmental compatibility study, a location appraisal or cost estimates also has a positive impact on assessment.

The public can be kept informed by organising site visits.

Specifications should be drawn up to satisfy different requirements, needs and wishes. These define responsibilities and the key phases of planning. They also cover the planning of objectives. This helps to maintain an overview and capture any commitments made. The DGNB also looks positively on functional specifications that lay down various criteria affecting sustainability.

Good preparation includes informing local residents. This can take the form of public inspections on the building site, information days, notice boards showing the most important information about a project, circulars or personal letters in the neighbourhood that include details such as contact persons for enquiries. Public initiatives along these lines can help increase acceptance among local residents and/or subsequent users. Moreover, requirements and new ideas arising from dialogue can be incorporated into planning at an early stage.

Integrating sustainability requirements into calls for tenders

Precisely stating wishes and expectations right from the start is also an important part of the criteria covering sustainability aspects during the tender phase. By integrating sustainability aspects as soon as the call for tenders takes place, it can be ensured that the relevant decision-making is in place when it comes to the subsequent planning and building processes, and that a project is not acknowledged solely on the basis of economic considerations. This allows the DGNB to ensure that environmental and health factors are taken into account when drafting requirements for things like building materials.

Matching the formulation of requirements specifically to different trades is explicitly rewarded with an additional bonus. But it is possible to be even more specific. A call for tenders can include a list of recommendations and no-go’s for building materials. Requests can also be logged regarding durability, ease of cleaning, maintenance or suitability for recycling. Calls for tenders that stipulate that recycled materials should be used are also rewarded with bonus points in certification.

Recommended actions to help with planning

In addition to technical aspects, formal quality is an important element of the DGNB’s sustainability concept. The DGNB supports two different approaches in this respect and both are assessed under the criterion for urban planning and design procedure. One such approach is to stage an architects’ pitch. This enhances the quality of designs and enables the client to select the most suitable solution from the variety of offers for the specific building assignment.

In October 2016, the 50Hertz Netzquartier complex in Berlin became the world’s first building to receive the DGNB Diamond award.

Alternatively, or additionally, the DGNB offers advice from an independent design committee. This design quality commission comprises experienced architects who provide pointers on optimising the quality of designs. Open discussion between the commission and the architect yields recommended actions and these serve as a reference point for further planning. The DGNB also honours projects, that have received a DGNB Diamond award or an architectural prize.

Filed under: DGNB, DGNB System Version 2018


Dr. Christine Lemaitre was born in Gießen, Germany in 1975 and studied structural engineering at the University of Stuttgart from 1995 to 2000. After working in the USA for two years as structural engineer, she started in 2003 working at the Institute of Lightweight Structures Design and Construction at the University of Stuttgart as a research and teaching assistant. In 2007, she started as a project manager for R&D at Bilfinger Berger AG in the area of resource efficient buildings. She completed her phd thesis on adaptive lightweight structures in 2008. In January 2009 she took on the role as director certification system of the German Sustainable Building Council. Since February 2010 Dr. Christine Lemaitre is the CEO of the German Sustainable Building Council. Since 2013 she is member of the board of directors of the Sustainable Building Alliance. From 2015 until June 2019 she was Chair of the European Regional Network (ERN) of the World Green Building Council. Since 2016 she is board member of the World Green Building Council (WGBC).

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