The Insti­tut Bauen und Umwelt e. V. (IBU): An Advo­cate for Sus­tain­able Building

The con­struc­tion indus­try is ded­i­cat­ed to sus­tain­able devel­op­ment, the essence of which is the preser­va­tion of human life and nature for future gen­er­a­tions. Sus­tain­abil­i­ty in the build­ing sec­tor means mas­ter­ing eco­log­i­cal chal­lenges while tak­ing into account eco­nom­ic and social aspects. Many con­struc­tion indus­try stake­hold­ers who have this vol­un­tar­i­ly tak­en on this respon­si­bil­i­ty are build­ing prod­uct man­u­fac­tur­ers and mem­bers of the Insti­tut Bauen und Umwelt e. V. — the IBU.

Its more than 300 com­pa­nies and asso­ci­a­tions make the IBU the largest asso­ci­a­tion of build­ing mate­r­i­al man­u­fac­tur­ers, and it has devot­ed itself to the con­cept of sus­tain­able con­struc­tion. The IBU oper­ates a cross-sec­tor, inde­pen­dent infor­ma­tion sys­tem for con­struc­tion prod­ucts and build­ing com­po­nents and ensures that eco­log­i­cal aspects are able to be incor­po­rat­ed into the sus­tain­abil­i­ty assess­ment of build­ings. This does not include prod­uct eval­u­a­tion. The IBU is one of the lead­ing pro­gramme oper­a­tors world­wide for con­struc­tion indus­try envi­ron­men­tal prod­uct dec­la­ra­tions (EPDs) and is Europe’s lead­ing organ­i­sa­tion for build­ing prod­uct dec­la­ra­tions that con­form to the Euro­pean stan­dard EN 15804.

On the basis of its more than 40 years of vol­un­tary com­mit­ment, the IBU has set an indus­try stan­dard that has now estab­lished itself in all areas of the entire con­struc­tion indus­try, from prod­ucts for build­ing con­struc­tion and under­ground engi­neer­ing to build­ing ser­vices components.

The IBU began its his­to­ry in 1982 with the found­ing of the ‘Arbeits­ge­mein­schaft Umweltverträglich­es Baupro­dukt e. V.’, or AUB. The organ­i­sa­tion was renamed in 2008, and since 2013, the IBU home office has been locat­ed in Berlin. The IBU’s more than 300 mem­bers elect the fif­teen-mem­ber Board and the Pres­i­dent, who is the pub­lic rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the IBU and who pro­vides guid­ance on strate­gic plan­ning. The top-lev­el expert body is the pro bono Advi­so­ry Board, which is respon­si­ble for appoint­ing the inde­pen­dent third-par­ty ver­i­fiers.

Structure of the IBU e.V.

Sus­tain­able Con­struc­tion Requires A Holis­tic Approach and Detailed Analysis

Closed sys­tems and a waste-free econ­o­my: this is a vision that, with­in the con­cept of sus­tain­abil­i­ty –  which has now become a polit­i­cal guid­ing prin­ci­ple –  is meant to become real­i­ty. The ‘three-pil­lar mod­el of sus­tain­abil­i­ty’ makes it clear that eco­nom­ics, ecol­o­gy, and social fac­tors all con­tribute equal­ly to sus­tain­able devel­op­ment. The con­cept that ecol­o­gy plays an espe­cial­ly impor­tant role has long-since been accept­ed in the con­struc­tion and real estate sec­tor. In order to meet the require­ments of sus­tain­able con­struc­tion and to have their build­ings cer­ti­fied as sus­tain­able, plan­ners, investors, and prop­er­ty devel­op­ers are increas­ing­ly tak­ing envi­ron­men­tal aspects into con­sid­er­a­tion in their choice of products.

In eco­log­i­cal terms, sus­tain­able con­struc­tion means tak­ing a holis­tic view of each build­ing, while analysing every build­ing com­po­nent. This is because each indi­vid­ual build­ing prod­uct influ­ences the eco­log­i­cal per­for­mance of the entire struc­ture. For this rea­son, the IBU, in coop­er­a­tion with con­struc­tion and envi­ron­men­tal author­i­ties along with inter­na­tion­al stan­dard­i­s­a­tion insti­tutes, has devel­oped an EPD pro­gramme that is used by IBU mem­ber com­pa­nies as the basis for cre­at­ing EPDs for their build­ing prod­ucts. They there­by pro­vide impor­tant infor­ma­tion for assess­ing the eco­log­i­cal qual­i­ty of a build­ing – an essen­tial com­po­nent for the holis­tic assess­ment of build­ing sus­tain­abil­i­ty. This means that IBU mem­bers, as the dec­la­ra­tion hold­ers, vol­un­tar­i­ly dis­close com­pre­hen­sive infor­ma­tion about their prod­ucts. The IBU is thus com­mit­ted to a sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly-based analy­sis of con­struc­tion prod­ucts and build­ing com­po­nents. This goes much fur­ther than just ener­gy effi­cien­cy or CO2 reduc­tion. The IBU’s EPD pro­gramme pro­vides com­pre­hen­sive life cycle assess­ments and an inde­pen­dent ver­i­fi­ca­tion process.

Mem­ber­ship in the IBU Strength­ens the Mar­ket Posi­tion of Con­struc­tion Prod­uct Manufacturers

Man­u­fac­tur­ers and asso­ci­a­tions in the build­ing mate­ri­als and build­ing ser­vices indus­try who become IBU mem­bers there­by raise their pro­files. They demon­strate their com­mit­ment to sus­tain­abil­i­ty. By cre­at­ing EPDs, they make it clear that they are tak­ing ini­tia­tive, since the detailed life cycle assess­ment that pre­cedes EPD cre­ation reveals poten­tial for improve­ments to prod­ucts in terms of their envi­ron­men­tal impact. Process opti­mi­sa­tion poten­tial will also be iden­ti­fied, allow­ing EPD own­ers to fur­ther expand their sus­tain­abil­i­ty efforts and strength­en their mar­ket posi­tion. As IBU mem­bers, they ben­e­fit from the fact that the IBU and its EPD pro­gramme, espe­cial­ly on account of the trans­paren­cy it pro­vides, enjoy a high lev­el of accep­tance by build­ing cer­ti­fi­ca­tion systems.


EPD Har­mon­i­sa­tion Opens Inter­na­tion­al Mar­kets to Build­ing Prod­uct Manufacturers

At both the glob­al and the Euro­pean lev­el, the IBU is com­mit­ted to cross-bor­der recog­ni­tion of EPDs, and works in coop­er­a­tion with many Euro­pean and non-Euro­pean EPD pro­gramme oper­a­tors. As ini­tia­tor and found­ing mem­ber of the ECO Plat­form, an umbrel­la organ­i­sa­tion of the indi­vid­ual nation­al EPD pro­gramme oper­a­tors, the IBU is involved in issues such as the har­mon­i­sa­tion of EPDs on a Euro­pean lev­el, a project that began in 2013. This con­sists of the devel­op­ment of a uni­form pro­ce­dure and uni­form stan­dards based on exist­ing Euro­pean stan­dards. Through mutu­al recog­ni­tion, IBU mem­bers also have the abil­i­ty to have their EPDs pub­lished in EPD pro­grammes in oth­er coun­tries, mak­ing them avail­able them to fur­ther mar­kets. Con­verse­ly, the IBU may also pub­lish exter­nal­ly-cre­at­ed EPDs.


The IBU: A Net­work and Com­pe­tence Cen­tre for Sus­tain­able Construction

Sus­tain­abil­i­ty is a pop­u­lar top­ic these days. Often, how­ev­er, the term is not used selec­tive­ly, or can be infla­tion­ary, or may have been added only for adver­tis­ing pur­pos­es. Pub­lic report­ing on sus­tain­abil­i­ty is often lim­it­ed to top­ics such as ener­gy effi­cien­cy, CO2 reduc­tion, or the trend towards renew­able raw mate­ri­als. The IBU pro­vides infor­ma­tion and clar­i­fi­ca­tion. The envi­ron­men­tal aspects of sus­tain­abil­i­ty are mul­ti-lay­ered and com­plex. The IBU’s aim is to clear­ly show the poten­tial for improve­ment that is par­tic­u­lar­ly offered by the con­struc­tion sec­tor for a more con­ser­va­tion­al approach to envi­ron­men­tal issues and the scarci­ty of resources. To achieve this, the IBU car­ries out inten­sive pub­lic rela­tions activ­i­ties and par­tic­i­pates in net­works that are involved with sus­tain­abil­i­ty in the con­struc­tion indus­try and that pro­mote sus­tain­able development.

The IBU has a broad-rang­ing net­work of experts and, in recent years, has increas­ing­ly devel­oped into a com­pe­tence cen­tre for sus­tain­able con­struc­tion. This net­work includes the inde­pen­dent Advi­so­ry Board, whose mem­bers are experts from such areas as envi­ron­men­tal and build­ing author­i­ties, con­struc­tion com­pa­nies, test­ing facil­i­ties, stan­dard­i­s­a­tion, sci­ence, and envi­ron­men­tal asso­ci­a­tions. The IBU also main­tains inten­sive exchanges with, among oth­ers, rep­re­sen­ta­tives of build­ing cer­ti­fi­ca­tion sys­tems and life cycle assess­ment experts.

The IBU Main­tains Exchanges with Ger­man Min­istries and Fed­er­al Insti­tu­tions for Sus­tain­abil­i­ty in Construction

The IBU main­tains dia­logue with Ger­man min­istries and author­i­ties, such as the Fed­er­al Min­istry for the Envi­ron­ment, Nature Con­ser­va­tion, Build­ing and Nuclear Safe­ty (BMUB) and the Fed­er­al Insti­tute for Research on Build­ing, Urban Affairs and Spa­tial Devel­op­ment (BBSR), and par­tic­i­pates in the Sus­tain­able Build­ing Round­table. This body sup­ports the BMUB in devel­op­ing reg­u­la­tions for the sus­tain­able con­struc­tion of fed­er­al gov­ern­ment build­ings. The find­ings are includ­ed in such pub­li­ca­tions as the Guide­lines for Sus­tain­able Build­ing. The IBU is also an active mem­ber of the Resource Effi­cien­cy in Con­struc­tion Round­table, there­by help­ing to shape the future devel­op­ment of sus­tain­able and resource-effi­cient construction.

The IBU Works in Coop­er­a­tion with Both Ger­man and Inter­na­tion­al Build­ing Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion Systems

In its part­ner­ship with the Assess­ment Sys­tem for Sus­tain­able Build­ing (BNB) for fed­er­al build­ings, the IBU is an active par­tic­i­pant in the exchange between EPD pro­gramme oper­a­tors and build­ing cer­ti­fi­ca­tion sys­tems. The IBU is a found­ing mem­ber of the non-prof­it Ger­man Sus­tain­able Build­ing Coun­cil (DGNB), which oper­ates the DGNB sys­tem for pri­vate con­struc­tion projects. IBU Man­ag­ing Direc­tor Burkhart Lehmann is a mem­ber of the Con­struc­tion Prod­ucts Coun­cil there.  The IBU is also active on an inter­na­tion­al lev­el, includ­ing its mem­ber­ship in the U.S. Green Build­ing Coun­cil (USGBC) and the Ger­man Green Build­ing Asso­ci­a­tion (GGBA), and its role as the exclu­sive Ger­man part­ner of the USGBC and Ger­man off­shoots of the LEED sys­tem. As an exam­ple, the IBU is pro­vid­ing sup­port for the adap­ta­tion of the USG­BC-issued LEED build­ing cer­ti­fi­ca­tion sys­tem to Euro­pean and Ger­man mar­ket conditions.