What is meant by environmentally friendly building

The new office of the German Sustainable Building Council (DGNB) in Stuttgart serves many purposes. It forms a forum for the exchange of experiences, the committees and working groups of the DGNB meet here - the office in Tübinger Straße is also an almost perfect calling card for the concerns of society. Every room furnishings, every floor covering and every wall coating is made of environmentally friendly materials. Everywhere there are small information boards that give the visitor information about the type and advantages of the material in question.

According to the DGNB definition, buildings are sustainable when they are economical, efficient, environmentally friendly and resource-saving at the same time. They should be comfortable and healthy for their users and fit optimally into their socio-cultural environment.

Today the DGNB has 1200 members from the construction and real estate industry, who presented their ideas to the general public in 2008. Ten of their expert groups are constantly working on the further development of the criteria for the three-stage certification. 87 percent of all commercially used new buildings in Germany are already certified according to DGNB standards.

This year the certification criteria were changed. "From the industry for the industry", is how managing director Christine Lemaitre describes the principle according to which the guidelines are designed. "We don't want to produce paper, we want to set benchmarks and implement them as soon as possible."

In view of climate protection and the scarcity of resources, it is important to use the resources available more and more carefully. An example: Around a third of raw material consumption in Germany is accounted for by buildings. The principle of sustainable building wants to change that and also ensure high quality and stable value of houses and structures in the long term. From this point of view, the concepts of the DGNB also correspond to a particular degree with the cradle-to-cradle philosophy, according to which every raw material used should be used as often as possible in the same quality. In the new DGNB criteria catalog, the point "Recyclability of components used" has therefore been fundamentally revised.

The point "Mobility", ie the connection of a building to the local transport infrastructure, has been added. For example, questions such as "where are the next public transport stops?" or "how far is it to the next train station?" Even the location of the nearest bike rack is taken into account when evaluating the property.

When it comes to these details, however, the client should not get bogged down. During the revision of the catalog of criteria, one focus was on anchoring "project-specific solutions", as Christine Lemaitre calls them. "These often innovative approaches could not previously be mapped in the DGNB system," explains the managing director, "a shortcoming that has now been eliminated".

It is not a further step from individuality to design. As is well known, very individual standards also apply in this area, which is perceived as appealing and beautiful. What is expressly meant is not topics such as "art in architecture" or the "floor plan qualities" that have already existed, but rather the aspect of the obligatory implementation of architectural competitions. "A competition leads to even greater awareness of the design qualities of a building project," summarizes DGNB Vice President Martin Haas. Design thus represents a new procedural aspect of sustainability that is on an equal footing with ecological, economic, socio-cultural and technical points.