I’m getting tired of hearing it. Anyone who, like me, is strongly committed to more sustainability on the one hand and moderates discussion groups quite frequently on the other, encounters it again and again: this annoying “we have to”. My theory: It’s of no use to anyone. Except perhaps those who say it. But let’s take it one step at a time. Last week, I had the privilege of moderating two rounds at the Expo Real real estate and investor fair. In principle, they went well and were entertaining – at least that was the feedback I received afterwards. And to a large extent I would agree with that. If it weren’t for the unkindness that tends to run rampant at such panels. We have to do more, they say. We have to act faster. We have to do whatever. To make sure that the urgency of the “we must” really gets through, the voice rises, it becomes louder and more insistent. Because we have to. And everyone should finally understand. Who is “we” in …
Ever since the European Union declared sustainability a competitive advantage, the property industry has been in turmoil. Everyone is talking about ESG – or environmental, social and governance. Of course a property being sustainable – because it demonstrably takes environmental, social and governance factors into account during construction, renovations or operation – is nothing new. But it does make you wonder why everything suddenly feels so different and exciting … because a three-letter acronym is doing the rounds. The DGNB has been pointing the way forward in sustainable building for more than 15 years.
Without carbon sinks, we will not achieve the climate goals. This was the clear message made in the World Climate Report written by international scientists. By using the right construction methods, buildings have the ability to store carbon in the long term and thus offer major potential. Experts discussed how this can be achieved at the DGNB Annual Congress.
Issues surrounding sustainable financing have been edging closer and closer to the building and property industry in recent years. If you’re an investor, or at a big company, the term sustainable finance will meet you at every corner. To dig deeper, experts at the DGNB Annual Congress talked about their everyday experience in this area.
Time and again we see evidence that we stopped expecting buildings to last for eternity many years ago. No sooner the first signs of patina appear on a building – after twenty, thirty or forty years – people start discussing whether it should be torn down, or whether it would make sense to renovate it after all. In a recent interview, DGNB CEO Dr Christine Lemaitre and Thomas Auer, professor for climate-friendly building at the Technical University of Munich, explained why that doesn’t have to be the case.
For days now, everywhere we look we’re forced to hear outcry, warnings and worries about changes to building efficiency funding – the German BEG scheme for new buildings. The criticism being levelled at the new rule, which means subsidies will only be awarded if sustainability factors are taken into account, comes in as many guises as the topic of sustainable construction itself. We no longer want to watch what is happening without passing comment.
End poverty, protect the climate, equality, leaving no one behind. The content of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) sounds just right, but how do you get there? Many have racked their brains over this, including Marc Buckley. He has been appointed by the UN as an advocate for the SDGs. In this first of a two-part interview he talks about his role and how the SDGs are really to be understood.
On 22 July 2021, Dr Christine Lemaitre (CEO, DGNB – German Sustainable Building Council) and Prashant Kapoor (Chief Industry Specialist, IFC Climate Business Group, World Bank Group) kicked off the free Master Classes of the Building Sense Now initiative and MISEREOR. Since then, people from 47 countries have participated in the global knowledge exchange on climate-smart building. All past events are available online. One more Master Class will be taking place in February, and more are in the planning.
Replicable solutions for sustainable and climate-friendly construction worldwide – projects that adhere to such principles are honoured by the international Green Solutions Awards. This year’s award ceremony took place on November 10 at the 26th Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland. Among the jury members was Thomas Kraubitz, Director and Head of Sustainability in Europe at Buro Happold, and a member of the DGNB board of directors. We spoke to Mr Kraubitz about recent developments in the industry worldwide and current trends in the area of sustainable building.
What we’re hearing isn’t surprising – sadly – but that doesn’t make it any less shocking or, above all, any less significant: the Sixth Assessment Report on the world climate puts an end to the era of climate change denial. To maintain tolerable levels of life on Earth, decisive action is required now. The only real option available to us is to systematically cut carbon emissions. This is where action is called for across the entire building sector – and time is running out.
The 15th UN Biodiversity Conference has been rescheduled to take place in October of this year in the Chinese city of Kunming. At the conference – known as the CBD COP 15 – member states will set a new 10-year strategy until 2030. Currently, the DGNB is the only association in the building sector to have made a clear commitment to the CBD. Why? Because there are many overlaps between building and biodiversity – as this post explains in a nutshell.
Too many firms are still going about business in ways that lead to exploitation of both people and nature. This also applies to the construction industry. Long overdue, the proposed Supply Chain Actin in Germany will bring us a step closer to focusing more attention on this issue. But the requirements still fall short in terms of consistency. The DGNB has a clear vision of what a fair supply chain looks like, and it continues to appeal for more voluntary action.
With its Green Deal, the EU under the leadership of Ursula von der Leyen has caused quite a stir. When it comes to climate protection and sustainability, there’s a new spirit of optimism. It’s right and important that the building industry plays a central role on this path to becoming the ‘first carbon-neutral continent’. The penny has finally dropped and not been ‘lobbied off the stage’ by reservations and objections.
“I would like to build more sustainably, but the costs…”: The fear of additional costs due to sustainability often leads to doubts and hesitations during planning and implementation. A new study from Denmark now shows with regard to new building construction that this is unfounded. Here it becomes clear: more sustainable does not equal more expensive. On the contrary.
Buildings contain a lot of material. These in turn are valuable resources that are becoming increasingly scarce and are responsible for many CO2 emissions. Structural engineers can counteract this consumption of materials on a massive scale. At least that is how professor Patrick Teuffel sees it. We spoke with him about built heavyweights and the current state of research in the world of materials.
Architects and specialist planners involved in the Phase Sustainability initiative ‘met up’ for the first time on 28 July. The main idea of the get-together was to share people’s experiences dealing with sustainability issues when building. By the end of the day, the participants had benefited from a number of long-overdue discussions and gained many valuable insights. Time for Phase Sustainability to enter the next round.
Changing travel infrastructures, the green energy transition, climate protection, demand for affordable housing, civil participation schemes, digital transformation – the major challenges of our time are part and parcel of life in the city and conurbations. A great deal has already been undertaken to translate sustainable urban development into action on a municipal level. And demands to do something are no less pressing given the COVID-19 pandemic. Now it’s important to promote transformative power in government administration!
Many architecture departments have yet to develop a proper understanding of the role played by sustainability in teaching and research. It’s such an important opportunity to introduce young people to the topic early and pave the way for the future. All universities should place climate protection and the conservation of resources high on their agenda.
It has been a decade since developers started erecting sustainable buildings. They now account for an increasing share of the property market. Now it’s existing buildings that need to catch up. An important point of leverage in achieving this will be to instil sustainability as a fixed feature of the financial industry. There are reasons to be optimistic, however, thanks to initiatives like the European Green Deal and the increasing use of carbon pricing.
Any conversation about climate protection and introducing key measures likely to make a real difference quickly moves on to the topic of buildings. Our choices regarding how buildings are planned, constructed and used have a considerable impact on the carbon levels of our planet, which are currently somewhat worrying. But there’s also good news. We can turn things around and make positive contributions to climate protection in the way we need to – but only if we work together, approach things systematically and act as quickly as possible. How specifically this should happen is addressed by a number of services recently announced by the DGNB.
Building material recycling, gold of pleasure and green hydrogen: these elements gave three finalists of the DGNB Sustainability Challenge 2019 victory in their respective categories of research, innovation and start-up. It is now almost a year since their presentation at the DGNB Sustainability Day. Reason enough to take a look at how their innovations for more sustainability in the construction and real estate industry have developed since then.
The role played by architecture in climate change is not yet entirely clear. We’re still trying to work out if we need to take a new stance on architectural culture. Architects now bear a major responsibility. They have become the ‘conscience of construction’ – the ones expected to ask the right questions. Answering these questions is something we can only do together.
As public awareness grows for the need to protect the climate and save resources, there is also increasing demand for appropriate building materials. Manufacturers are expected to ‘do their bit’ in raising the standards of the environment we build around ourselves. There are some interesting ideas out there – but companies need to get more proactive.
Increasingly worrying climate predictions, limited carbon allowances and a rapid rise in public awareness – a lot of things have happened over the last ten years and we’ve all learnt a lot. Against this backdrop, the DGNB has evolved and moved forward, and we face a number of completely new challenges as 2020 gets underway.
A DGNB Certificate in Platinum means meeting the highest standards for holistic quality in all aspects of sustainability – for new buildings as well as buildings in use and urban districts. To kick off the new year, we would like to take time to look back at a few DGNB certification highlights of 2019 and use them as a source of inspiration for an ambitious 2020. Let’s get started!
192 projects, 37 countries, 3 categories – these are the key statistics of the Green Solutions Awards, recently awarded in France to international beacon projects of sustainable building. The aim of the competition, which is backed by the DGNB, is to highlight reproducible examples of sustainable solutions in the construction sector and urban development industry. Allow us to introduce you to the winners across the main categories.
What are we doing anyway? This is the question I kept asking myself after going to this year’s UN Climate Change Conference (COP25) in Madrid. Last weekend the COP25 drew to a close, once again without any real results or ambition to show for its efforts. After three days at the conference, this came as no surprise. But instead of shying away from this painful topic, it is now time for some honesty and openness.
Once a year, the German Taxpayers Federation (BdSt) publishes its ‘Schwarzbuch’ containing examples of what it considers to be wasteful uses of tax revenues by government departments. The current edition names the DGNB certification system as one such example, under the heading of ‘Expensive Image Cultivation’. This leads us to question whether the selection and research methods used by the authors were as thorough as they should be. In this case at least, it shows that judgement was handed down without understanding the subject in the necessary depth. So here in the blog – with the necessary brevity of the format – we present the most important reasons why certification is actually worth it.
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.
You can erect and use a building without having any negative impact on the environment. Really? Is that possible? Yes, it certainly is. Even today. For the first time, the DGNB bestowed its new Climate Positive award on eleven projects at the Expo Real 2019 trade show. We spoke to the designers, architects and users of the award-winning buildings.
Very few could claim to have influenced German sustainable building developments in Germany as much as Prof. Alexander Rudolphi. To the DGNB, he has been an initiator, founding member and president in one – from the very start. His was reappointed to his post in 2019. We spoke to Rudolphi at the Expo Real trade show in Munich, took a snapshot together and looked beyond the horizon.
Yes, it’s true: the D part of the DGNB name stands for Deutsch. We’re German. This has no impact on our operations as an NPO, however: we act on the global stage. Whether it’s in Europe or many other corners of the world, we set up networks and are a much sought-after partner and platform of knowledge for many issues affecting sustainable construction. Probably one of the best examples of this is a recently initiated partnership in Spain.
The sustainable building philosophy is generally viewed positively, yet large swaths of the construction and real estate industry drag their heels when it comes to implementation, often with a ‘Yes, but…’ on their lips. In a new publication, the DGNB examines the most common misgivings.
For many people, the three leading international systems for certifying sustainable buildings – DGNB, LEED and BREEAM – are sometimes used in the same breath and the public perception is that they’re largely interchangeable. But if you take a closer look at the obvious overlaps between the systems, there are actually a number of fundamental differences, so it’s not quite right to consider them synonymous.
Ten years ago, when the German Sustainable Building Council (DGNB) was founded, sustainability was a niche topic in the German construction and real estate industry. A decade later, we have made considerable progress.
Thinking consciously about how natural resources are used has always been a core topic at the DGNB. Right from the beginning, the DGNB has offered a certification system that favours a holistic approach to carbon footprints. Therefore, this has always involved not only the conscious selection of building materials according to their composition and origin, but also a methodical assessment of the ‘reclaimability’ of individual residual materials – all based on strict criteria, criteria that have thus become established in the market.
The DGNB System has been applied in China for some years now and the first projects have already been certified. During BAU Congress China, taking place in July 2016 in Beijing, we talked with two experts that have practical experience in applying the DGNB System on the Chinese market. Their conclusion: The DGNB System is very well received and fits perfectly to the needs of the Chinese market.
When we’re shopping and we think about sustainability, our thoughts quickly turn to the many shades of organic, green and vegan. But the supermarket itself – or rather the building, how it was built and the technical equipment – can also be an impressive testimony to the powers of sustainability, as the retail chain REWE has shown. I recently went on a store visit in the Frankfurt suburb of Praunheim and it was a chance to take a first-hand look at what green building means to the company.