DGNB certification news

Sustainable interior spaces and KfW incentives

From an environmental, financial and sociocultural perspective, it makes good sense to build sustainably. But "sustainable architecture" is increasingly being factored into client requirements as a quality parameter, too. To enable building contractors to demonstrate that their buildings meet these standards, they can opt to certify their buildings under a certification system. The leading certification in this field Germany is issued by the German Sustainable Building Council (DGNB). Two recent developments are now set to make DGNB certifications an even more attractive prospect: The organisation has added sustainability certification for interior spaces to its programme, and its certifications are now eligible for KfW incentives.

DGNB: International "Green Building Rating System"

Since 2009, the DGNB has assessed the sustainability of commercial and private construction projects as a globally recognised "Green Building Rating System". In their work, DGNB auditors look closely not only at the environmental aspects of the building, but also at overall quality, over the entire life cycle of a building or a construction product. They can certify a building in one of four categories: bronze, silver, gold or platinum. The organisation audits existing buildings, new constructions and entire urban quarters – and at the start of 2017, it added interior spaces to its repertoire, too. Although interior design was taken into consideration previously, interior spaces could only be assessed as part of a full building certification process; no separate audit was available for shop fitting or office space projects, for example.

New sustainability certification for interior spaces

Since January 2017, this gap in the system has been filled with a separate sustainability certification for interior spaces. This is an important development – because the construction quality of the inside of a building has a significant impact on the health and performance of the people who use it. For this reason, the new DGNB certification focuses on the well-being of the inhabitants of the building. The assessment criteria include:

  • The inside air quality, which is dependent on factors such as the ventilation rate or relative humidity,
  • The visual comfort inside the space, which relies on factors such as a lack of glare in daylight and high-quality artificial lighting,
  • A workplace layout that promotes movement,
  • A cutting-edge specification that is oriented towards the needs of the user,
  • Ergonomic furniture made without hazardous materials, with a low environmental impact and a long service life,
  • The use of environmentally friendly power sources,
  • And a climate-neutral design.

Practical and condensed certification management process

The new certification system will initially be available for commercial buildings. The system will be tested during the first roll-out phase, which will last until June 2017. The audit checklist is clear and concise: With 16 criteria for office and administrative buildings and 13 criteria for commercial buildings, certification is a quick and simple process. The practical certification management process has also been condensed. Building contractors can use the new certification alongside the existing DGNB certifications for new and existing buildings – as well as for interior spaces in non-certified buildings. As is the case with the previous certifications, multiple certifications can be awarded for identical buildings in different locations.

The new system will be of particular interest as a planning tool for interior architects, commercial tenants and building contractors involved in projects with extensive specifications. What's more, the additional sustainability certification will increase the value of a property – making it an attractive concept from a financial perspective, too.

KfW incentives for building certification

DGNB building certifications became an even more appealing prospect when they became eligible for a new subsidy: On 13 January, the KfW incentives programme was extended to include certifications awarded by the German Sustainable Building Council. On 1 April 2016, eligibility had already been extended to include both existing and new buildings. Now, private building contractors who have a residential building certified by DGNB will also be awarded a KfW subsidy for the sustainability certification: The KfW promotional bank will cover half of the cost, up to a maximum of 4,000 euros. Building contractors must apply for the subsidy, which is paid as a construction grant, before obtaining DGNB certification. The maximum incentive amount is made up of various costs:

  • Certification fees
  • Auditor fees, and 
  • Other services directly connected to the certification process, such as interior air flow or air density testing and environmental performance or life cycle cost calculations

The incentive is financed by the KfW "Energy-efficient construction and renovation" programme.

Sustainable architecture pays

Whether it's protecting valuable resources, reducing environmental impact, increasing the quality of life of inhabitants, increasing value retention or reducing operating and maintenance costs for investors and building contractors: Sustainable construction pays in many different ways. Positive developments such as the DGNB certification for interior spaces and KfW incentives will ensure that sustainable architecture becomes an even more worthwhile venture in future.