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Planning and certification of sustainable districts

Living and working spaces continue to grow closer together as urbanisation increases. The development of sustainable districts is one of the key tasks of contemporary urban development. In times of climate change, scarcity of resources and social division, planners, developers, municipal and institutional builders have a special responsibility. The aim is to create sustainable, liveable districts in which people can feel comfortable without unnecessarily affecting the climate and environment.

With its certification system for sustainable districts, the DGNB has been offering a globally recognised planning and optimisation tool, which helps to implement this kind of holistic sustainability in a targeted, systematic and economic manner. It offers the right answers to our most important questions about the future of planning and construction practices.

The core topics: what is important for sustainable districts

The core topics include climate action, climate adaptation and resilience. In concrete terms, certification supports the development of districts that produce potentially low CO2 emissions – in planning and construction, as well as in their subsequent use. The city climate and microclimate are considered as are the environmental risks and the associated value retention of a district. Particular focus is dedicated to the promotion of biodiversity. And another focus is on mobility: The connection with the environment is strengthened and mobility management strategies for car-free districts are rewarded.

Another central theme is the circular economy, which is the promotion of thinking and acting in cycles when dealing with the resources and land used. In addition, the focus is on people, creating quality spaces people want to spend time in and supporting a good mix in the district. The early, participatory involvement of later users is also strengthened to promote greater acceptance and identification.

The advantages – why certify?

  • Holistic consideration of all relevant sustainability requirements
  • Transparent and independent quality award
  • Long-term quality assurance
  • Planning reliability and clear definition of targets from the very beginning
  • Image building and value stability of the district
  • Communication of the project to the public
  • Marketing and financing advantages
  • Risk minimisation
  • Contribution to the sustainability goals of the United Nations
  • Higher value
  • Can be applied and compared internationally

The criteria – how is the evaluation carried out?

The DGNB System does not evaluate individual measures but looks instead at the overall performance of a district based on various criteria. 31 criteria are taken into account for districts, although not every criterion is relevant for every use. The criteria are divided into five subject areas. They are included in the evaluation with equal weighting. This makes the DGNB System the only system that attaches as much importance to the economic aspects of sustainable construction as it does to ecological aspects.

The five topics considered

The weighting of the individual criteria varies depending on the type of district. However, what all schemes have in common is that if the criteria are fulfilled in an outstanding manner, the project receives a platinum, gold or silver certificate or pre-certificate.

Request criteria

The certificate – which project stages are certified?

The development of districts extends over a long period of time, during which the owners often change. Therefore, between a pre-certificate, at the level of an urban development plan, a certificate for planning/development is introduced, for which at least the statutory resolution for the land-use plan must be present and at least 25% of the development must be completed. Alternatively, in phase 2 the quality of the execution can be secured contractually in accordance with the minimum requirements of DGNB. The final step is the certificate for a district that is at least 75% completed. The pre-certificate is valid for 3 years, the certificate for planning/development for 5 years. The certificate for the district remains valid indefinitely.

Special feature of industrial sites: The development of industrial sites takes place over a shorter period of time compared to urban districts. A distinction is therefore made between a pre-certificate, at the level of a master plan or site development plan, and a certificate for a site that is at least 75% completed. The pre-certificate is valid for 3 years and the certificate for 5 years. The site must be recertified every 5 years, although only a selection of criteria need to be documented again here provided that no major structural changes are made.

The schemes

Phase differentiation of the district profile

Urban Districts


Business Districts

© ARGE (Cityförster architecture +urbanism I urbanegestalt PartcmbB I Transsolar Energietechnik GmbH) + BIS

Commercial Areas

© Porsche AG

Industrial Sites

© FC Barcelona

Event Areas



© Bloom Images/ Groß & Partner

Vertical Cities


Nicole Valentini Fedrizzi
Sustainable Districts
Phone: +49 711 722322-20
n.fedrizzi at dgnb.de


Dr. Stephan Anders
Director Network and Consulting
Phone: +49 711 722322-45
s.anders at dgnb.de

Added value of certified districtrs

Learn about the added value for projects resulting from sustainable planning and implementation as well as certification.

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Explained briefly - the DGNB System for districts