DGNB System Version 2020 International

We are pleased to present to you the new international version of our certification system for new construction buildings: truly a global benchmark for sustainability. It results from DGNB's many years of experience in certifying buildings, as well as from market trends and market requirements in terms of sustainability. It is also our answer to the global challenges we face today which are more urgent than ever before.

The purpose of the DGNB and the DGNB System is not to provide certification for certification's sake, solely as a marketing tool or to demonstrate leadership; instead, it uses certification as a means by which a consistent overall quality standard can be ensured. Of course this also entails transparent quality control by means of an independent, neutral certification process. The DGNB System is intended to be used both as motivation and as a planning tool, enabling demonstrably better buildings to be built and managed. Sustainability must be approached as an integral part of every building project rather than being an add-on or an optional consideration.

This version of the DGNB System has been developed after taking into consideration feedback and experiences from a wide range of market participants. Based on this, we have further developed the DGNB system so that it represents the DGNB's sustainability concept and defines it more clearly than ever before, allowing it to be used as a tool in planning and construction stages to help finding the right answers to the most pressing questions regarding how to make provisions for the future. This takes the form of the following key issues.

People focus

We build for ourselves – the people who spend a large portion of their lives inside buildings. With this in mind, it almost goes without saying that people's health and happiness should be a focal point when making design and construction decisions. The DGNB has anchored this principle in its system from the very beginning. In the latest version, this fundamental principle is systematically expanded and further promoted. This includes, for example, casting a critical eye over the kinds of technology and equipment used in a building, and considering the disempowerment of users that could result if their requirements are ignored in the decision-making process. The self-determination and responsibility of the users is a necessary and fundamental factor in ensuring that building management is both effective and appropriate.

Circular Economy

One of the DGNB's primary concerns is promoting the responsible use of resources. It is about the forward-looking selection of products in terms of their ingredients and in the context of their application, as well as the consideration of possible structural modifications during use. Also, to close the circle, dismantling the building at the end of its useful life should be considered when choosing products at the planning stage. For this version of our system, we have systematically developed this topic and anchored it more firmly in the system. Through its certification system, the DGNB is thus ensuring that material cycles are ready for later reuse or further use in accordance with the cradle-to-cradle philosophy - via new business models as well as responsible and forward-looking product development. This makes the DGNB System the first building certification system which consistently integrates circular economy and that over a wide variety of topics in order to make it assessable and measurable at building level. So to promote new approaches, these solutions are rewarded with appropriate incentives (in the form of bonus points), which have a positive effect on certification results.

Design quality

The DGNB considers design quality to be an integral part of sustainable building. For instance, we introduced the "DGNB Diamond Award" in 2016 – a way of evaluating over and above standard certification with regard to sustainability. This aspect is systematically further developed in this version of the DGNB System by focusing more closely on the contribution that the building and its outdoor space make in the context of urban planning. The criteria for site quality have therefore not only been revised, but will also be included directly in the certification results. Furthermore, greater emphasis has been placed on design aspects in order to foster a more integral, holistic approach to planning. This includes, for example, rewarding the architectural office winning the competition as well as the associated specialist planner team by continuous commissioning them. In addition, a new criterion with regard to FM-compliant planning has been included in the process quality criteria, in order to take facility management aspects into account right from the design stage.

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

With Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) being the focus of the Agenda 2030, the United Nations set out a number of specific objectives in 2016 that described a pragmatic approach involving a long-term shift in the way we think to further develop our world, which in turn enables us to live in a more sustainable world. The DGNB supports these objectives and seeks to encourage a concrete step in the right direction through certification. In order to firmly establish the concept of sustainable building in compliance with the SDGs and make this process transparent, we have checked that all the criteria in this version fulfil the objectives of the UN, and have provided the necessary information so that this can be verified accordingly. As a result, every project that obtains DGNB certification will, in future, also be issued with a statement specifying the extent to which a project contributes to the realisation of the SDGs. This will also provide motivation to users and facility managers to act in accordance with these goals during the use and operation of a building. As an additional incentive, we award an "Agenda 2030 bonus" for selected criteria for projects that contribute to the UN sustainability goals.

Climate Protection

It will be the biggest challenge of our time to tackle the issues of the climate change by reaching the goals set by the Paris Agreement in 2015. Meanwhile, it is widely understood that buildings play a major role in this challenge by extensively reducing CO2 emissions. Nevertheless, a systematic approach from governments is still lacking in most countries. For more than ten years now, the DGNB has been committed to voluntarily achieve above and beyond what it required by codes and regulations. During that time, buildings certified by the DGNB have become more and more ambitious in reducing their carbon emissions during construction and while in use. Therefore, it was a logical step to enhance the importance of the climate goals in the newest version of the DGNB certification by implementing a tailor-made bonus system that rewards better buildings. The bonuses are given to buildings which are designed to be at least carbon neutral, meaning they produce more energy than they consume during operation. With this, the DGNB is setting a clear signal to the market that every new building can be designed as a carbon neutral building in order to make a positive contribution towards reaching global and national climate goals.


Sustainability has been, and still is, a key issue for the future. We can already see plenty of good examples of this when we look at today's buildings and urban districts. However, the DGNB plans to push this even further, with bold, new ideas. In light of this, a new method has been integrated into the criteria in this version of the system: Innovation areas. This has been added to many criteria and is intended to encourage designers to devise optimal solutions that most closely match the requirements of the project. The innovation areas now incorporated into these criteria are also intended to foster a design culture based on actively addressing the requirements of the specific building task and tailoring solutions to individual projects.

We consider the further developments and focal points outlined briefly in this international version of the DGNB System for New Buildings to be important stepping stones towards improving the quality of our man-made environment all around the world. Against the current backdrop of global challenges, it is increasingly important that issues surrounding sustainability, and in particular their practical implementation, are taken seriously. Verbal agreements and purely market-driven measures are no longer acceptable. We really do not have to accept this anymore, as we have instruments at our disposal, such as the DGNB System, that make action possible, with the power to do plenty of good. Its current version allows us to achieve more than ever.

International standards and flexibility to country-specific conditions

The DGNB System Version 2020 International includes all criteria that are also available in the German version as well as a criterion concerning fire safety. The difference is that almost exclusively international standards are used for the evaluation. In a few cases where no ISO standards were available, European standards were chosen or the German DIN standards were adapted in the best possible way.
The special feature of the DGNB System Version 2020 International is the maximum flexibility with regard to country-specific conditions. Depending on general conditions, it may be necessary to adapt the criteria or reference values and the weighting of criteria to create tailored solutions for the diverse countries. This can be easily done within the system in consultation with the DGNB certification body.

The adaptation process

The adaption process

DGNB System Version 2020 International is an "umbrella document" for all new building schemes available under the DGNB Certification System.

It currently covers nine new building schemes:

  • new office and administration buildings
  • new educational buildings
  • new residential buildings
  • new hotel buildings
  • new consumer market buildings
  • new shopping centre buildings
  • new department stores
  • new logistic buildings
  • new production buildings

Additionally, several new schemes are currently under development and will be integrated in this version of the system.

Request criteria


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

DGNB System Version 2020 International

Request DGNB criteria