What Makes a Building ‘Sustainable’?

IBU Conference with a Panel of Experts at the Scandic Hotel Berlin on Potsdamer Platz

How do we evaluate the sustainability of a building? What influence do individual building products have on the sustainability of the building? How can building materials manufacturers, through their products and the information about them, contribute to sustainability? And, just what is it that makes a hotel building sustainable? Information on how a building can be not only sustainably planned and built, but also operated, based exclusively on the example of the DGNB-certified Scandic Hotel at Berlin’s Potsdamer Platz, was shared with around 50 representatives from building product and component manufacturers. The panel of experts invited by the IBU included key participants who were involved in the building of the hotel, and who provided a guided tour of the facility.

Experts: Sustainabiliy of buildings

Using the Scandic Berlin Potsdamer Platz as their example, experts from a variety of areas explain what makes a building sustainable: (from l. to r.) Johannes Kreißig (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Nachhaltiges Bauen e.V.), Dr Burkhart Lehmann (Institut Bauen und Umwelt e.V.), Hans Dieter Reichel (Architekten Reichel + Stauth), Mark Kumar Bose (Masterplan Informationsmanagement GmbH), Marcel Gröpler (Lindner Group KG), Heiko Kain (Scandic Berlin Potsdamer Platz).

Experiencing a sustainable building first-hand – this was the theme of the conference held on 6 June in the Scandic Berlin Potsdamer Platz, to which the Institut Bauen und Umwelt (IBU), in collaboration with the German Sustainable Building Council (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Nachhaltiges Bauen – DGNB), invited member firms. The certification of this hotel in 2010 was a portion of the pilot phase in the development of a new hotel usage profile. The project was awarded the highest evaluation within the pilot project and was also awarded the overall category of second best from the DGNB. ‘It is a brilliant example of a sustainable building – particularly in the area of building operation, summarised Mark Kumar Bose, a DNGB auditor and the Managing Director of Masterplan Informationsmanagement GmbH.

A Basis for Sound Evaluation

‘We wanted to give our member firms and associations – who are involved with every type of building product and component – a first-hand opportunity to experience a certified, sustainable building, and to also use the opportunity to allow them to meet and talk with the people who were responsible for the planning, building and operation of the building’, explains Burkhart Lehmann, Managing Director of the IBU, in discussing the decision to hold the Member’s Day gathering at the Scandic. The IBU invited the key players in the building project – the architect, the auditor, building tenants, as well as a representative of the DGNB – to serve as expert participants. They explained all of the relevant processes and decisions, and then discussed questions and problems raised by the manufacturers in attendance. The central theme of the event was Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) and their significance for sustainable building – particularly as a source of data for building planning, evaluation, and certification.

Through their EPDs, IBU members help to ensure that information about the environmental effects of their products can be used for sustainable building. In addition, the IBU operates an EPD programme for building products and components in Germany and throughout Europe. The information contained in an EPD is based on a life-cycle assessment and is only published by the IBU following successful verification by an independent third party. ‘The sustainability of a product is primarily dependent upon where it is used in the building’, explained Lehmann. ‘In combination with other products, a system is created, which is subject to product interaction and is required to fulfil a variety of requirements – this is why evaluations and comparisons of building products only make sense in the context of an entire building or building segment’. Accordingly, sustainability evaluations are done at the building level. The German Sustainable Building Council (DGNB) operates a building certification system that, along with the ecology of the building, also evaluates the economic, technical, sociocultural, and functional qualities of the building, including the location, as well as process quality of the planning and construction. Selecting the right products is a decisive factor, especially when it comes to the building services (technische Gebäudeausrüstung  – TGA), which, in the operational phase of the building has an enormous influence on its ecological performance. The right HVAC system can greatly improve the energy performance of a building.  ‘EPDS for TGA products can make a significant contribution to documenting, and then reducing, the influence of these products’, remarked Lehman, to the unanimous approval of all present. Unfortunately, however, EPDs for TGA products are still far from routine.

A Question of Commitment

DGNB auditor Mark Kumar Bose was responsible for the evaluation of the Scandic. In order to calculate the environmental effects of a building, a large variety of information is required – especially the information available about each building product. ‘I am glad that we have EPDs. They are ideally suited for providing verifiable data about the life-cycle analysis’, says Bose. Further, the information is always readily accessible on databases, such as that of the Federal Ministry for Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety, ÖKOBAUDAT. This makes EPDs an important and reliable data basis for the life-cycle analysis of a building – and also for the planning: ‘In the area of sustainability, calculations done after the fact aren’t very useful’, explains Johannes Kreißig, Managing Director of DGNB. ‘This is why at DGNB, our system focuses more closely on the planning and construction processes’. Pre-certification and deadline dates will therefore become even more significant in the future. ‘For us, the sustainable construction and operation of a building is more than just a checklist of criteria. It is a commitment’.

In this context, Heiko Kain from the Scandic Hotel provided a number of examples involving hotel operations and the role that sustainability plays therein. ‘Among other things, we work hard to conserve water and energy. We use as little paper as possible and, when it comes to such items as soap or shampoo, we completely avoid individually packaged products. We also don’t purchase bottled water, but instead, we filter the Berlin tap water, add minerals to it and fill our carafes with it. We also use district heating and cooling’. Some of these concepts, however, are not the most comfortable: To save energy, the rooms at the Scandic are cooled to a maximum of eight degrees (Celsius) lower than the outside temperature. To still maintain the most comfortable room temperature and climate possible, the windows in the room are able to be opened. These are also treated with a special covering that slows the heating of the room by the sun’s rays. ‘On really hot days, however,  it’s not enough for some of our guests – still, we have to adhere to it. Up until now, our experience has been almost exclusively positive. Nearly all of the guests who learn about our concept are happy to participate in it and support us’.

Not an Expensive Extra: A New Standard

‘Most people believe that sustainable building is more expensive’, says Hans Dieter Reichel, the architect responsible for the new construction of the Scandic Hotel. ‘However, firstly – that is an inaccurate generalisation, and secondly – the certification often enormously increases the value of the building, particularly in the financial sense’. Certificates of sustainability are frequently a unique selling point, making them a perfect marketing tool. For many corporate groups, they have become a decisive factor in their choice of real estate. It is significantly easier to sell or lease a certified building.

Marcel Gröpler, Green Building Coordinator at the Lindner Group also confirmed that a sustainably planned, constructed, and operated building  doesn’t have to be more expensive. ‘Sustainability can’t be an extra feature that comes at an extra cost – it must become the standard. We therefore manufacture every one of our products to be as sustainable as possible’. This is an important reason that Linder was chosen as the general contractor for the interior construction of the hotel. Bose also sees a developing trend: ‘The concept of sustainability is bringing about a far-reaching change in our society and in the economy’. Kreißig concluded: ‘We will have arrived at our goal when we are at the point where you have to justify why you have NOT built sustainably’.

As a result of the overwhelmingly positive feedback to this event, the IBU is already planning another meeting for 2017, during which it will be possible to take a more in-depth look at the Assessment System for Sustainable Building (BNB). The BNB is run by the Federal Ministry for Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety and is required for all federal buildings that involve an investment of two million euros or more.


2017-04-12T14:26:44+00:00 29.06.2016|