Sus­tain­abil­i­ty in the Build­ing Industry

Drei Säulen der NachhaltigkeitThe term sus­tain­abil­i­ty has been fur­ther devel­oped in the build­ing and real estate indus­try. In addi­tion to the three pil­lars of ecol­o­gy, eco­nom­ics, and the social respon­si­bil­i­ty, the aspects of tech­ni­cal and process qual­i­ty, as well as loca­tion char­ac­ter­is­tics, have been giv­en spe­cial mean­ing. Tak­ing the life cycle into con­sid­er­a­tion is also fun­da­men­tal, since sus­tain­able build­ing means opti­mis­ing the use of raw mate­ri­als and ener­gy in all phas­es of the building’s life cycle. In all phas­es, from plan­ning, to both the estab­lish­ment and the use of the build­ing, as well as to the demo­li­tion, this means using resources effi­cient­ly and impact­ing the envi­ron­ment as lit­tle as pos­si­ble. Increas­ing­ly, build­ings are being assessed with respect to their eco­log­i­cal, eco­nom­ic, and social aspects. Dif­fer­ent build­ing cer­ti­fi­ca­tion sys­tems are there­by used. These describe and eval­u­ate the qual­i­ty of sus­tain­abil­i­ty on the basis of stan­dard­ised criteria.

Pro­tect­ed resources and pro­tec­tion goals as defined in ISO 15392 serve as the basis for the devel­op­ment of eval­u­a­tion cri­te­ria. In the area of sus­tain­able build­ing for instance, nat­ur­al resources (ecol­o­gy), cap­i­tal (eco­nom­ics), and health (socio-cul­tur­al) will be con­sid­ered pro­tect­ed resources. The pro­tec­tion goals for­mu­lat­ed des­ig­nate, among oth­er things, the preser­va­tion of nat­ur­al resources, the min­imis­ing of life cycle costs, as well as the main­te­nance of health and safe­ty. The tech­ni­cal qual­i­ty that influ­ences all areas of sus­tain­abil­i­ty is also con­sid­ered a pro­tect­ed resource. For exam­ple, fire, noise and ther­mal pro­tec­tion, and the main­te­nance, as well as the demo­li­tion, of a build­ing, are there­fore also includ­ed. Like­wise, the process qual­i­ty, from the plan­ning phase through the building’s con­struc­tion to the plan­ning of the oper­a­tion, plays an impor­tant role in the areas of pro­tec­tion goals and sus­tain­abil­i­ty. The qual­i­ty of the loca­tion affects all sus­tain­able build­ing goals.

From the Build­ing Prod­uct to the Sus­tain­able Building

Sus­tain­able build­ing means tak­ing a holis­tic view of each build­ing and analysing every detail – each indi­vid­ual build­ing prod­uct. Depend­ing upon the type, use, or loca­tion of the build­ing, dif­fer­ent require­ments exist for the build­ing prod­ucts to be used. Each indi­vid­ual com­po­nent affects the envi­ron­men­tal qual­i­ty of the entire build­ing. There­fore, the envi­ron­men­tal effects of indi­vid­ual build­ing prod­ucts can only be judged with­in the con­text of the entire build­ing – for exam­ple, exact­ly what is con­tained in each indi­vid­ual prod­uct, the resources and ener­gy that are required for each of them, and what emis­sions are released dur­ing pro­duc­tion, trans­port, use, and from demolition.

Type III Envi­ron­men­tal Prod­uct Dec­la­ra­tions (EPDs) doc­u­ment the envi­ron­men­tal­ly rel­e­vant char­ac­ter­is­tics of build­ing prod­ucts and deliv­er the basic infor­ma­tion need­ed for eval­u­a­tion of the envi­ron­men­tal build­ing qual­i­ty. This is essen­tial for a holis­tic view, as well as for eval­u­a­tion of the building’s sustainability.

Increas­ing­ly, the devel­op­ment of build­ing cer­ti­fi­ca­tion sys­tems such as DGNB, BNB, LEED or BREEAM is caus­ing real estate investors and builders to con­sid­er envi­ron­men­tal aspects in their prod­uct selec­tions. Because of this, EPDs are gain­ing in impor­tance, as they pro­vide a sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly ground­ed data basis for eval­u­at­ing build­ings in the areas of eco­log­i­cal and tech­ni­cal qual­i­ty, as well as pro­vid­ing infor­ma­tion on the envi­ron­men­tal and health com­pat­i­bil­i­ty of build­ing prod­ucts. EPDs are inter­na­tion­al­ly recog­nised build­ing eval­u­a­tion instruments.

Inter­na­tion­al Stan­dard­i­s­a­tion for Sus­tain­able Building

The Ger­man Insti­tute for Stan­dard­iza­tion (DIN) is respon­si­ble for Ger­man stan­dard­i­s­a­tion with­in Euro­pean (CEN) and inter­na­tion­al stan­dard­i­s­a­tion (ISO) process­es. Sus­tain­able build­ing is fun­da­men­tal­ly set forth at the glob­al lev­el in the stan­dard ISO 15392, and is han­dled by the sub­com­mit­tee ISO/TC 59/SC 17, which is respon­si­ble for the entire ‘Sus­tain­able Build­ing’ stan­dard­i­s­a­tion project. On this basis, fur­ther stan­dards and stan­dard­i­s­a­tion efforts on sus­tain­abil­i­ty indi­ca­tors, envi­ron­men­tal dec­la­ra­tions for build­ing prod­ucts for the eval­u­a­tion of the effects of build­ings on the envi­ron­ment, and bases for the sus­tain­abil­i­ty eval­u­a­tion of engi­neer­ing struc­tures have been set forth in ISO/TC 59/SC17. The build­ing eval­u­a­tions, as well as prod­uct dec­la­ra­tions, in the form of EPDs, are reg­u­lat­ed only for the envi­ron­men­tal pil­lar of sus­tain­abil­i­ty. Up until now, the social and eco­nom­ic aspects have been mere­ly treat­ed as ‘gen­er­al prin­ci­ples’ (EN: Gen­er­al Prin­ci­ples) in ISO 15392.

CEN/TC 350 and DIN EN 15804

In Europe, EPDs have gained sig­nif­i­cance in the con­text of the ‘sus­tain­able build­ing’ stan­dard­i­s­a­tion work of CEN/TC 350. These con­tain rel­e­vant infor­ma­tion about indi­vid­ual prod­ucts, which is used in the eval­u­a­tion of the envi­ron­men­tal sus­tain­abil­i­ty of build­ings. Along with the three essen­tial dimen­sions of ecol­o­gy, eco­nom­ics, and socio-cul­tur­al, tech­ni­cal and func­tion­al build­ing qual­i­ties are also tak­en into con­sid­er­a­tion in the build­ing evaluation.

In Agen­da 21, indus­tri­al nations are chal­lenged to sub­stan­tial­ly low­er their resource con­sump­tion. The build­ing indus­try offers enor­mous poten­tial for this, since in this area, resources and ener­gy require­ments, as well as green­house gas emis­sions and waste gen­er­a­tion, are par­tic­u­lar­ly high. Many play­ers in the con­struc­tion indus­try are tak­ing on this respon­si­bil­i­ty and work­ing toward sus­tain­abil­i­ty in construction.

The cen­tral result of Euro­pean stan­dard­i­s­a­tion work in the build­ing indus­try is that the eval­u­a­tion of envi­ron­men­tal build­ing qual­i­ty should be based on the results of a life cycle assess­ment. EPDs for the indi­vid­ual build­ing prod­ucts and their life cycle assess­ments pro­vide the data upon which this is based. The BNB and DGNB cer­ti­fi­ca­tion sys­tems are also tied to it.

EPD pro­grammes – whether in Ger­many, Europe or world­wide – are based on the ISO 14025 inter­na­tion­al stan­dard. It applies to all indus­tries, but the pio­neer of its appli­ca­tion was the con­struc­tion indus­try. There­fore, more con­crete rules for the cre­ation of EPDs, which even exceed the ISO stan­dards, were cre­at­ed by the Euro­pean Com­mit­tee for Stan­dard­i­s­a­tion – more specif­i­cal­ly, in the CEN/TC 350. Thus, the Euro­pean DIN EN 15804 stan­dard, applic­a­ble to all build­ing prod­ucts and build­ing ser­vices, came into effect in April 2012. It pro­vides fun­da­men­tal prod­uct cat­e­go­ry rules (PCRs) for the dec­la­ra­tion of build­ing prod­ucts and build­ing ser­vices of all kinds, and paves the way for EPDs that will be valid through­out Europe. In accor­dance with the stan­dards of EN 15804, Euro­pean pro­gramme oper­a­tors – most notably, the IBU – have fur­thered a cor­re­spond­ing har­mon­i­sa­tion of EPDs to the Euro­pean level.

Sus­tain­able Build­ing in Germany

In 2002, the Ger­man Fed­er­al Gov­ern­ment adopt­ed the nation­al sus­tain­abil­i­ty strat­e­gy ‘Per­spec­tives for Ger­many’. It con­tains polit­i­cal guide­lines for sus­tain­able devel­op­ment and lists 21 indi­ca­tors for the track­ing of goals and progress. The action pro­gramme is con­stant­ly being updat­ed and involves, among oth­er things, the align­ment of fed­er­al build­ings with the require­ments of the sus­tain­able build­ing eval­u­a­tion sys­tem (BNB). In fed­er­al build­ings, sus­tain­abil­i­ty is to be trans­par­ent, mea­sur­able, and ver­i­fi­able over the entire life cycle, includ­ing eco­log­i­cal, eco­nom­ic, and social aspects. Urban plan­ning, cre­ative, tech­ni­cal, and func­tion­al aspects should also be tak­en into con­sid­er­a­tion. The eval­u­a­tion is con­duct­ed on the basis of recog­nised sci­en­tif­ic meth­ods, such as life cycle assess­ments and life cycle cost cal­cu­la­tions. In addi­tion to the Ger­man Fed­er­al Government’s BNB pro­gram, the Ger­man Sus­tain­able Build­ing Coun­cil (DGNB) has been oper­at­ing a cer­ti­fi­ca­tion sys­tem for pri­vate build­ings since 2007, which also applies LCA at the build­ing lev­el and uses EPD as a data basis.