We're delighted to introduce you to the new Version 2017 of our certification system. This version is the result of an intensive internal process at the DGNB, not only drawing on our experiences over recent years but also looking at market developments and key requirements when it comes to sustainability and the certification that goes with it.
In essence, the DGNB and the DGNB System are not about certification as an end in itself – a marketing tool, or a way to communicate that an organisation believes in taking the lead. The DGNB is more about providing certification as a tool for achieving end-to-end, holistic quality. It therefore goes without saying that transparent quality controls must be a central aspect of certification, delivered through an independent and objective process. The DGNB System is more about providing motivation and a planning tool – a means of proving that there's a better way to construct and manage buildings. Sustainability should not be an add-on or nice-to-have. Instead, it should be seen as an integral part of every building project. We're entirely aware that our system has not always met some of these high aspirations in recent years, but we have now witnessed a number of positive developments that have motivated us to continue on our journey - and to do this with determination and resolution.
Version 2017 of the DGNB System is based on the many useful things we have learnt and the many different things that have been experienced by a whole host of people in the industry. We have drawn on all these insights as a foundation for developing the DGNB System, so that it now reflects how the DGNB sees sustainability more clearly than ever before. It's a valuable tool that helps with both planning and building, providing pertinent answers to the most important questions that affect our future. This all manifests itself in the following core topics.
We build for ourselves – for people who spend most of their lives in buildings. This intrinsically means that people and their need for health and well – being must therefore be the lynch pin – the point around which everything revolves when making all the decisions that influence planning and building. This is a fundamental concept that has been the backbone of the DGNB system since its inception. Version 2017 will therefore continue to focus on this fundamental insight and indeed underscore it. For example, it will entail a critical assessment of any technology used in a building and whether it poses a hindrance to its users in any way. Self-determination and responsibility are a necessary and essential component when it comes to managing a building properly – in ways that make sense for users.
Encouraging people to use resources consciously has also been a key concern of the DGNB from the beginning. It's important to think about the future when selecting materials and deciding how different elements within materials will be used. Similarly, it's important to consider possible changes that will be made to a building during use. When selecting the materials to be used in a building it is also necessary to consider that one day it may be disassembled or reclaimed. We've worked through all these issues systematically for Version 2017, expanding it and capturing key aspects in the system. The DGNB certification system thus plays an important role in ensuring that material cycles are put in place so that products can be re-used or reclaimed, along the lines of cradle-to-cradle principles. These ideas can be incorporated in new business models and become part of responsible, future-centric product development. The DGNB System is therefore the first of its kind to make circular economy principles an assessable and measurable aspect of buildings. To promote the use of new methods, such solutions are rewarded with bonuses, in turn having a positive impact on certification outcomes.
The DGNB sees design quality and Baukultur (architectural culture) as a central aspect of sustainable building. To provide a separate method for assessing these particular aspects of sustainability, we have established the DGNB Diamond award to go with the recommendations already in place since 2016. These were conceived by an independent design quality commission and focus mainly on the earlier stages of planning. Version 2017 captures the systematic development of these aspects in the DGNB System by looking more closely at any factors that consider a building's contribution to its urban environment. For example, criteria such as location quality were not just overhauled but in future will also feed directly into the certification result. To promote more integrated and holistic approaches to planning, greater emphasis has also been placed on planning aspects. For instance, there are rewards for allowing the originally contracted architectural firm to work continually on the entire development. The same applies to associated specialist planners. A new criterion has also been added to the aspects relating to process quality. This should encourage more planning in keeping with FM principles, and ensure that operator factors are already taken into account when plans are being drafted.
In 2016, the United Nations issued its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a set of specific and meaningful targets aimed at shaping the future development of our planet, encouraging people to think again and thus paving the way for life in a sustainable world. The DGNB supports the UN objectives and wants to encourage others to make a tangible and positive contribution to achieving these targets through certification. To link sustainable building methods to the SDGs and engender transparency, we have examined all our criteria in Version 2017 and their relevance to the UN goals and ensured they are demonstrable accordingly. As a result, all projects that achieve DGNB certification in future will also include a statement on the extent to which they contribute towards fulfilling the SDGs. This should also motivate users and building operators to consider the UN's goals more closely when interacting with and using a building. We also provide an extra incentive linked to two Agenda 2030 Bonus criteria. These apply to projects that are deemed to make a special contribution to climate protection and implementation of the UN goals.
Ever since it was introduced, the DGNB System and the methods it uses have differed from all other certification systems in the way they reflect European sustainability standards. One example of this is the life cycle assessment of entire buildings. This is captured in the DGNB System in accordance with EU standards and ranges from how materials are produced to final deconstruction. It's important that scientifically defined benchmarks are used to calculate and optimise impacts on the environment. This is also why for the DGNB it was logical that the recently developed sustainability indicators of the EU would also be reflected in different criteria used by the DGNB, underscoring how closely they conform with its methodologies. The aim is also to support and strengthen the European initiative. At the same time, this means that all projects certified by the DGNB are based on EU-wide principles, going a long way towards safeguarding their relevance in the future.
Sustainability has been central to future developments for a long time. If we look at modern buildings and urban districts, many good things have already been achieved. Despite this, it is still the DGNB's goal to promote new thinking and a willingness to step outside comfort zones. It was this underlying thought that resulted in a new instrument being added to the criteria contained in Version 2017: Innovation Capacities. With immediate effect, many of the criteria have been defined in a way that should motivate planners to pursue the best possible and the most sensible solutions for their project. Innovation Capacities have also been captured in a way that should help engender a planning culture based on the idea of actively considering and even challenging different requirements related to a building project – so that projects can be made as individual as they need to be.
We consider the changes made to the DGNB System in Version 2017, and the emphasis they now create, to be an important step forward in improving the quality of the buildings all around us. Given the number of global challenges we now face and the demands of climate change, it will become increasingly important for everyone to face up to the key topics of sustainability, especially when it comes to implementing different aspects in practice. Paying lip service to sustainability or reacting simply because it looks good for marketing purposes will no longer be accepted. This does not need to be the case – there are instruments like the DGNB System, which empower people to do something themselves, creating many different ways in which to make a positive contribution. More so than ever with Version 2017.
Dr. Anna Braune
Director Research and Development
Phone: +49 711 722322-67