Sustainable building operation

The new DGNB certification scheme for in-use buildings covers nine criteria, all of which are geared towards improving and managing building operation under real-world conditions. Designed as a planning and optimisation tool for efficient building management, the scheme aims to help building operators, property holders and users to gradually improve the sustainability performance of their buildings.

The DGNB scheme stands out from the other schemes currently available through being very user-friendly, carefully tailored to the needs of existing buildings and inexpensive to implement.

Managing and improving our existing building stock is an important task for a number of reasons. Whether we want to work together to meet climate change targets, offer building users a comfortable and healthy environment or simply save money, adopting a sustainable approach to the challenges posed by the built environment delivers a host of benefits. Effective management is the key to sustainable building operation, starting with the definition of specific, measurable goals and the implementation of appropriate measures that enable those goals to be achieved. Success also needs to be monitored, and a final evaluation carried out to provide a baseline for future improvement initiatives.

With input from experts in the construction and real estate sector, the DGNB has developed a certification scheme for in-use buildings that demonstrates how this can work in practice: quickly, easily and without significant additional costs. The scheme establishes sustainability processes and provides practical support for continuous improvement. It is designed to enable individual performance to be measured against up-to-date and ambitious performance targets, and to ensure that relevant, forward-looking improvements which minimise risk are initiated and implemented.

Nine criteria for a lean, user-friendly system

As with the established DGNB certification schemes, the certificate for in-use buildings covers the three core sustainability criteria – environmental, economic and sociocultural – while also including technical and process-related aspects. The criteria relating to process quality carry greater weight in the overall assessment, in keeping with the scheme’s emphasis on effective management.

The DGNB certificate for in-use buildings comprises nine criteria, making the scheme much leaner than the existing DGNB certification schemes for new builds, which are typically based on around 40 criteria.

  • Strategy and communication focuses on sustainability strategies, sustainability reporting, environmental management and operator certificates, sustainability guidelines, incentive systems and green leases.
  • Building management covers real estate strategies, process management, documentation and the requirements to be met by staff working in building management.
  • Resource efficiency involves a combined assessment of energy efficiency, greenhouse gas emissions, water use and waste volumes.
  • Procurement focuses on environmental protection and health and safety with regard to upgrading and repair works, the procurement of consumables, cleaning and the selection of suppliers and service providers.
  • Value preservation and operating costs looks at the marketability of a building, based on the occupancy rate, and at operating efficiency, broken down by way of operating cost monitoring and benchmarking, budgeting for maintenance costs and warranty management.
  • User satisfaction examines the scope and results of user satisfaction surveys, with a focus on comfort requirements, and also assesses complaints management.
  • Sociocultural aspects brings together a range of topics. These include family-friendly practices, health initiatives, facilities for older people, the integration of people with disabilities, and a user experience that promotes communication.
  • Safety and operator obligations addresses the issues of fires and emergency situations, safety obligations and subjective perceptions of safety.
  • Mobility options examines the infrastructure for various modes of transport, plus electric vehicles and user comfort within the building.

The DGNB certificate for in-use buildings is valid for three years, after which re-certification is required. Compared to the schemes offered by competitors, the DGNB scheme for in-use buildings is much more straightforward to implement in terms of the effort and cost involved. Moreover, no time-consuming additional expert reports or simulations are required for the verification process. Instead, the focus is on building improvements that can be structured and planned, which in turn results in projects that operate much more effectively.

An article by:

Dr. Christine Lemaitre, Chief Executive Officer DGNB

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