A look at the ecological criteria:
climate protection needs specific implementation
Clearly, when it comes to the ecological consideration of buildings, climate protection is at the top of the list - a topic that has now also reached the construction and real estate industry. Everyone is aware that the fundamental aim is to cut greenhouse gas emissions, which are responsible for global warming. But it is only when we understand the relations and measure real CO2 consumption that saving becomes a real lever.
The 1.5-degree target set by the global community in the Paris Agreement in 2015 means that the global temperature is supposed to rise by an average of only 1.5 °C by 2100 compared to the start of industrialization in 1850. The negative impact of this ambitious target is already revealed in the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. On this basis, we have to cut emissions by around 270 billion tons of CO2. If we continue as before, we still have six years until this balance is used up. This is underlined by the so-called CO2 clock of the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC).
The building sector is responsible for about one third of CO2 emissions. Heating, cooking, cooling and generating electricity from fossil fuels make up one part. The other part is accounted for by so-called gray emissions. This refers to the CO2 emissions generated during the construction of buildings through the manufacture of building products, but also during repair, dismantling and the associated transport or disposal activities.
Here, the role of a concrete planning instrument becomes clear: The criterion of life cycle assessment prescribes that precisely these CO2 emissions be determined and calculated - over the entire life cycle of the building. In this way, different construction methods can be checked for their greenhouse gas potential with the aim of minimizing the CO2 footprint.
Life cycle assessment is one of six criteria attributed to ecological quality in DGNB certification. It also examines the risks to the local environment, for example from pollutants. In addition, it is important to ensure that all resources were obtained responsibly. Specifically, certain labels and standards are requested. But the promotion of biodiversity also plays a part and, in view of the serious situation regarding the extinction of species, is given even more importance. Last but not least, the avoidance of land sealing is promoted.
Socioculture and economy: the focus is on people
We spend 90 percent of our time indoors. Do we feel comfortable in our four walls? Eight criteria can be assigned to sociocultural quality that place people at the center. One key criterion is indoor air quality. If the risks to the local environment of building materials have already been examined in the area of ecology, it is crucial to measure the actual air quality after completion. Are the limit values of volatile organic substances, but also CO2 or fine dust particles complied with? Can it be ruled out that the health of allergy sufferers or children will be endangered?
In addition, the sociocultural qualities deal with thermal, acoustic and visual comfort. They ensure safety as well as accessibility and examine the extent to which quality of stay is provided indoors and outdoors. In office buildings, for example, the focus is on communication spaces, directions systems and attractively designed spaces for meetings. Last but not least, there are rewards if the users of the building can exert influence, for example on the climate and lighting.
Studies and reports from the real estate industry show clearly that certifying sustainable buildings is economically worthwhile. Demand for certificates from investors is increasing steadily. These buildings are also easier to rent and sell. The reason for this is the cost and value security over a long period of time. The criterion of life cycle costing provides the figures in black and white and ensures cost-efficient operation. In addition, the flexibility and convertibility of rooms and buildings can be assigned to the economic qualities. Last but not least, the criterion of marketability ensures that there is long-term market potential. For example, location, accessibility and parking space are taken into account.
Processes and location: planning is the key
Sustainable construction does not work without systematic planning. The principle is: The earlier the sustainability goals are arranged between the client and the planners, the less effort and costs are incurred. A whole eight criteria of the certification system are dedicated solely to process quality. For example, it describes how project preparation should be carried out, including requirements planning, sustainability specifications and public information. A central point is also the integration of relevant aspects in tendering and awarding. We know from our own experience that there is often a gap between the actual building performance and the planning. Building in a sustainable way means closing this gap by creating a kind of user manual for sustainable building operation. In addition, an orderly commissioning process should include monitoring and functional testing. Other process quality criteria deal with the construction process and quality assurance of the construction work, transparent user communication and FM-compatible planning. Last but not least, the design procedures used to achieve a high level of building quality are evaluated.
The first criterion for "Location", entitled Micro-Location, reads quite differently in light of the numerous headlines on extreme weather events in Germany. The aim of the criterion is to create resilient buildings that are protected from natural disasters and their specific effects at the site. The aim is to estimate probabilities of occurrence and the possible severity of the effects. This is also intended to reduce follow-up costs for essential retrofitting. Furthermore, the extent to which buildings provide a positive impulse for the location or the neighborhood is evaluated. This could be, for example, unusual building projects or a use that has a unique regional characteristic. In addition, the connection to sustainable mobility concepts is considered a location quality. Last but not least, it is examined whether the building users have access to important public facilities.