There’s not much time left to meet the climate targets, and the building sector in particular needs to pick up a lot of momentum. Reason enough for Dr Christine Lemaitre (DGNB) to join Dr Anna Braune (DGNB), Jürgen Reimann (EDGE Technologies) and Jan Zak (ikl) at the DGNB Annual Congress 2023 and once again call for a climate protection reset. Indeed, there are effective ways to do something now, even with projects already underway or existing buildings – assuming the will is there.
BLOG SERIES ON THE DGNB ANNUAL CONGRESS 2023 (PART 5)
The second digital Annual Congress of the DGNB took place on 14 and 15 February. The event featured a variety of open discussions, providing plenty of ideas and inspiration on different aspects of sustainable building. This series of blog posts offers a look back at the event with a summary of key insights. In our next article, we focus on how sustainable finance is influencing the building and property industry.
In her introduction to the topic, titled ‘The climate protection reset – what are the options for ongoing projects?’, DGNB CEO Dr Christine Lemaitre named the planning process as one possibility to raise sustainability and climate protection expectations. Even if it’s not always welcome during live projects, it’s not unknown for plans to be revisited, especially if budgets are cut or other problems crop up.
As everyone knows, building is a long-winded process. Many years can pass between embarking on the planning process and final completion of a building, and during this time specifications and options might change. Whereas with projects that have just completed the planning phase – so sustainability has been considered, not least due to new laws and funding options – with ongoing projects potential is often overlooked. Planners are therefore called on to take courage and routinely reset the climate protection button, pause for thought, introduce measures that make sense and ultimately: set about reversing the trend – especially with large-scale projects.
Taking immediate steps – the Climate+ Package
Since August 2022, pressing the reset button has also been rewarded in DGNB Certification. After consulting its technical committee, which oversees decision-making and quality assurance, the DGNB has adopted a so-called Climate+ Package. This now extends to cover all current certification systems, offering an incentive to ongoing projects to re-double efforts to intensify any measures with a bearing on climate protection. Bonus points are awarded for measures that make a positive contribution to climate protection. These can be the carbon-neutral operation of a building, climate-friendly building methods or an ambitious climate protection roadmap.
Referring to this shift in focus in the DGNB system, Dr Anna Braune describes the recent move as a direct response to two developments with serious impacts on the entire world in 2022: firstly the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which finally highlighted the fact that we in Germany have been relying on the wrong energy supplies for over 40 years. In addition, in February 2022 the IPCC issued a report that emphasised – once again – that we’re running out of time. The next ten years are crucial, said Braune.
- Go to ‘Climate Protection at the DGNB’ for information, ideas and support with taking concrete measures on climate protection
The impact of the climate crisis in practice
Thinking about commercial property, and the things he has experienced in his role as sustainability consultant at the head office of ikl in Karlsruhe, Jan Zak explained that the need for climate protection and sustainable construction is well understood. Questions remain, however, when it comes to what actually needs to be done and support offered by the state. This is an acquired sense that has been developing for years, he says, and it’s now difficult to get this out of the heads of investors.
He has noticed the impacts of EU Taxonomy and the Carbon Risk Real Estate Monitor (CRREM), however. The CRREM risk assessment tool helps investors identify the financial risks of inadequate energy efficiency measures. It also allows them to gauge if a property should meet changing climate protection requirements.
EDGE Technologies, a property developer from the Netherlands, is considered a pioneer in innovative and sustainable buildings. Its director of executive development, Jürgen Reimann, has observed that the current crisis is at least having a positive influence on some companies. Previously, they put no thought into sustainable innovation but now – finally – they’re thinking again and becoming open to new ideas, particularly when it comes to energy sources.
Tenants are also an important link in the chain, however, not only because they increasingly feel they should be working in buildings that are sustainable – due to goals they’ve set for themselves – but also, says Reimann, because they play it safe when it comes to utility costs.
Existing buildings – a source of concern
It’s therefore important with new buildings to set your sails early and keep revisiting decisions as projects progress in order to question whether everything really has been done when it comes to climate protection measures. But what about existing buildings? If we really want to achieve the climate targets by 2045, there’s still an enormous amount to be done in this area.
According to Zak, this is where the real challenge lies, and currently we still lack the right political framework. Reimann believes that one way forward would be to drastically ‘devalue’ existing properties in order to make investments profitable. In the Netherlands, he said, they adopted a radical approach earlier this year: commercial buildings that fall short of energy efficiency class C may no longer be rented and are devalued.
Braune noted that the Netherlands started renovating buildings the moment legislative changes were made five years ago. This new legislation is currently being rolled out on a European level. This would also impact energy laws in Germany, where until now, existing buildings have been treated with criminal neglect.
Everyone should come on board – now!
As with any successful project, in sustainable building it’s essential that all stakeholders pull in the same direction. This starts with building commissioners or owners, who should think about sustainability targets early on and draw on sound advice. As a project progresses, you mustn’t miss key decisions, which need to be taken at the right moment. This means bringing on board the right people – professional planners and building partners who not only share your convictions but are also prepared to do what’s necessary to achieve what you’re aiming for.
To round off the session, Dr Anna Braune called on all building owners to bring in energy advisors and draft a made-to-measure climate protection roadmap. Depending on financial options, the measures that are required to make buildings more energy-efficient can also be introduced in small steps, one at a time.
More posts for the blog series:
- The DGNB building material passport – documentation for more closed-loop building
- Protecting biodiversity – from the well intentioned to the well done
- Living with climate change – are we living the right way in our cities?
- Life in the city, health and mental well-being – how are we affected by building methods and urban design?