The fundamentals of modern construction are driven by climate and environmental factors as well as the need to save resources. Requirements related to functionality, flexibility, health protection, and comfort are becoming increasingly important. To assess whether these standards are met when new buildings are constructed, the German Federal Ministry for Construction established the Assessment System for Sustainable Construction (German abbreviation BNB) in 2010. The system assesses the sustainability of non-residential, public buildings built in Germany. As a BNB system provider, the Steinbeis Transfer Institute for Building and Property Industry is recognized by the ministry and offers training and certification as a Technical Expert for Sustainable Building (SHB). The institute also offers conformity audits for BNB assessments produced by the technical experts.
The basic principle of sustainability – finding a balance between ecological, economic, and socio-cultural factors – is supplemented with technical and process-related requirements when a new building is constructed, and this applies to the entire life cycle of the building. The BNB system makes it possible to assess the qualities people expect in a building subdivided into 46 different criteria. The sustainability assessment is either checked by the federal government or by certified conformity auditors. These then award a governmental seal of approval in bronze, silver, or gold.
Since 2011, the Steinbeis experts working with Bernd Landgraf at the Steinbeis Transfer Institute have certified more than 100 technical experts, all of whom offer their services throughout Germany. These experts are currently overseeing 20 BNB projects not only from the federal government but also from various states and communities. The projects include office buildings, teaching facilities, and laboratory premises, all of which are assessed and certified by Steinbeis after completion. The Steinbeis team is currently conducting research into the assessment criteria for complete refurbishments. This would be aimed at new buildings and renovation projects at schools and universities. “In 2015 we simultaneously developed new assessment standards for ecological audits and life cycle cost analysis based on extensive model calculations. These have been applicable nationwide since 2016,” Bernd Landgraf explains.
The advantage of sustainability certification is that the quality of key aspects of the building are documented and tested. Achieving these qualities requires a process to be integrated into planning and implementation. This process documents the expectations of the end user and serves as a basis for measuring the overall results. In essence, this entails looking carefully at the interplay between the solutions used to design rooms, make the building itself, select materials, and plan the structural engineering during the enter building life cycle – in relation to simulated usage and operational scenarios. This approach demands integrated teamwork and everyone involved must be knowledgeable about the interplay between the various solutions that come from the different disciplines. Integral planning also requires a shared understanding of the ultimate goal and a willingness to create synergies by merging individual planning solutions with unique functions. Sustainability assessment systems allow for an independent assessment of different kinds of solutions.
Every building can be planned, built, and run sustainably, regardless of where it is located and how it is ultimately used. The first office building certified by the Steinbeis team is the Ludwig Bölkow House in Schwerin. It was built and is currently occupied by the Schwerin chamber of commerce. The Steinbeis experts awarded the building silver certification. The building features conference rooms and office space for the chamber of commerce and third-party tenants. Special conditions at the building site allowed for a pile foundation with energy posts to recover geothermal energy. Heat recovered from the ground is used through concrete core activation, making the building incredibly easy to heat at low environmental and economic costs. Thanks to the floor plan design, a smaller section of the building can be rented out externally. The functional and well-designed façade is of extremely high quality and bathes the workplace in natural light. Using durable, low-emission construction materials has made the building a healthy work environment and at a low total cost of ownership. The Steinbeis team unanimously agreed: it is an exemplary model of sustainable construction.