The Institut Bauen und Umwelt e.V. is represented by:
Prof. Dr. Horst Bossenmayer
President of the IBU
‘We can work together, as the building materials industry, to help shape sustainable building’.
With over 1,300 published environmental product declarations, the Institut Bauen und Umwelt e.V. (IBU) is one of the world’s foremost EPD programme holders and is the largest cross-industry organisation for sustainability information in the German building products and materials sector. Around 200 member companies and associations from 20 different countries have consolidated under the umbrella of the IBU to commit themselves to sustainability – but in many cases, this focus is the only area they share in common. How can such a multitude of competing industries, companies, opinions, and interests be accommodated?
With a ‘like-minded team’ and a common aim
Managing this accommodation is the task of Hans Peters, IBU Board Chairman, together with his ‘like-minded team’, as he refers to the IBU board. ‘Our common aim is to provide expert, neutral, i.e. non-prejudiced environmental information about building products and to promote and advance the underlying concept. I consider this to be a core responsibility of the building materials industry and believe that we have established a ground-breaking method for implementing this.’
The extremely successful division of tasks at IBU is an important basis for the board’s work. The Berlin office takes on a great deal of the work that would otherwise have to be done by the board, explains Berthold Schäfer from the German Federal Association of Building Materials, Rock and Associated Products: ‘The daily routine is so efficiently organised that it gives the board the freedom to concentrate on fundamental, strategic, and future-oriented topics’. And Hans Peters, not without a degree of pride, continues: ‘IBU and our EPD programme are the industry resource for sustainability information in the construction industry. This is why nearly every manufacturer of building products is represented within the IBU, and our board is a representative cross-section of the industry’.
Thirteen experts, one unit
What at first glance may appear to be an enormous challenge is what, according to Holger Ortleb from the German Federal Association of the Gypsum Industry, the board sees as its greatest strength: ‘The members of the IBU board represent the entire spectrum of the building products industry – and that is very significant. This allows us to approach all important issues regarding the evaluation of building products in the context of their application in a manner that is appropriate for all products and is also customer-oriented’. Frank Neumann, from the company Rheinzink, adds that it is a further advantage that: ‘The board is made up of representatives from every area of the building materials industry, from manufacturers to members of associations. This provides the board with a wide range of expertise and means that every decision taken reflects widely-differing perspectives – allowing the board’s work to produce results that are also in the interests of all members’.
Differences of opinion amongst board members thus pose absolutely no obstacle. On the contrary, they are seen as enriching and as shaping the open, creative, and constructive work climate. ‘We see ourselves as a team, and that is how we work together’, explains Berthold Schäfer. ‘In every decision and recommendation we make, we operate as a single unit – even when the topic is initially quite controversial. This is something quite special’. Hans Peters agrees: ‘It is always very admirable to observe how, in the interest of our common cause – “sustainability” – competitive squabbles are set aside and completely different assessments can be brought together to achieve a strategic position’.
Foundation and milestones
The strategic work is clearly paying off. ‘IBU has not only succeeded in establishing and maintaining a stable base, but we are also continually adding new members’, says Berthold Schäfer enthusiastically. ‘For me, this affirms that we not only have the right “product” on the market, but that we are also doing an outstanding job of fulfilling our function as an EPD programme holder.’ According to Hans Peter, the most important future milestones for the IBU include a practice-oriented adaptation of existing international standardisations to German construction industry conditions, the successful establishment of the ECO Platform for a European-wide unified approach to documenting sustainability information on building products, as well as the reaching of an agreement on harmonised standards for building products, which are currently the basis for all EPDs created in the EU.
The challenges of sustainable construction
IBU, however, is also taking on a number of other new tasks. Bernhard Hauke, from the company bauforumstahl, cites some of the largest of these: ‘We want to find a way to reconcile the EU Commission’s PEF approach for the building industry with that of the CEN/TC 350 EPD. Through mutual recognition with other EPD programmes, strengthening of the ECO Platform, and collaboration with other building certification systems, we will be able to further internationalise our work. In addition, we are broadening our scope – for example, we would like to attract more members from the area of technical building equipment and we would also like to devote more attention to social issues. In politics and in society, we must also more actively promote the complex, but ultimately correct, approach taken by the IBU, which is to not evaluate building products at the product level’. This is also an important issue for Holger Ortleb: ‘Unfortunately, so-called “eco-labels” often do not go far enough, implying sustainability and environmental friendliness without specifically describing the application. This is precisely the problem: it is the product’s context within the building that is most important’. The IBU Berlin office also continuously provides inspiration for the board’s work, for instance, in the area of the digitation of sustainability data, an field in which IBU is increasingly involved.
Hans Peter summarises: ‘One of our most important tasks is the positioning of the association under conditions that are constantly changing. Anticipating these changes is just as necessary as the corresponding adjustment of normative procedures to the demands of the market – and we’ve done a good job at that so far.’ Bernhard Hauke concludes: ‘The IBU board can work together, as the building materials industry, to help shape sustainable building’.