Better indoor environment with DGNB

To obtain a good DGNB rating, factors like thermal and acoustic comfort and indoor air quality must be in order – not just on paper, but in the finished building.

According to CEO Dr. Christine Lemaitre, the goal of DGNB is to drive continual change. Regarding health and wellbeing, the next step could be to adapt a new Danish distinction called DGNB Heart for use in Germany.

Troldtekt acoustic ceilings in school buildings
Photo: Dipl.-Ing Olaf Wiechers

A good indoor environment and user wellbeing has been one of the core topics of a DGNB certification for more than 10 years. Eight different criteria in the category Social and functional quality rate the building’s impact on the mental and physical health of humans. The detailed criteria cover a wide variety of aspects, such as a sufficient supply of natural and artificial light, good acoustics, safety, and accessibility.

Dr. Christine Lemaitre, CEO of DGNB e.V., explains that the holistic nature of DGNB promotes a balanced and comprehensive approach, which ensures that everyone involved with the building process understands what it takes to create a good indoor environment.

– If you want your building to qualify for a good DGNB rating, like gold and platinum, you need a high score in all criteria. You cannot just focus on energy efficiency and ignore the comfort of the users. This affects all areas of the building process, such as quality assurance, training, and responsible material sourcing, says Christine Lemaitre.

Air quality testing was a gamechanger

A good example of how DGNB has a direct impact on indoor environment is the air quality measurement that is conducted in a random sample of rooms after the building is completed. The "indoor air quality" criterion is an exclusion criterion in the DGNB certification system, which means that a building cannot be certified if it does not meet the minimum requirements.

– Once a building is finished, the indoor air measurements have to be done within four weeks. And because this is an “all or nothing” test, it puts pressure on everyone involved to take it seriously. Not just on paper, but also to make sure those decisions are followed through and have an effect on the completed building. So, when we introduced these measurements, it was a real gamechanger, says Christine Lemaitre.


Market transformation requires balance

DGNB continuously updates the certification criteria to reflect new knowledge and drive innovation. For example, radon measurements were incorporated in 2018 and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has put a new focus on surfaces that are easy to clean. This permanent innovation must happen at a controlled pace, because it is important not to overwhelm the market, Christine Lemaitre stresses:

– DGNB is essentially a market transformation tool. In order for sustainability to matter, it has to become mainstream, with standards that are available for everyone. Every time we update our criteria, the industry has to adapt, which is not always popular. So, it is important to find a balance and not be too ambitious or the cost of certification would quickly double in price.

A Heart from Denmark

One of the next innovations in terms of health and wellbeing for DGNB in Germany could come from its northern neighbor. The Green Building Council in Denmark has developed a new add-on DGNB distinction called DGNB Heart, which signifies that the building has an exceptional indoor environment, both for visible and invisible factors. DGNB Heart is always used in conjunction with a DGNB certification, but the evaluation is separate from the certification itself.

– We are following the development of DGNB Heart closely to see how it is used in Denmark. We have a great collaboration with the Danish Green Building Council, and this could be a powerful communication tool to help the market understand the impact of indoor environment on the users. We would almost certainly adapt it to the German market and keep the name and icon, says Christine Lemaitre.


Dr. Christine Lemaitre,

Facts about DGNB:

  • The German Sustainability Council (DGNB) was founded in 2007 and has around 1200 members, making it Europe’s biggest network for sustainable building.
  • The aim of the DGNB is to promote sustainability in the construction and real estate industry and instill awareness of building sustainability among the broader population.
  • The DGNB is an independent non-profit organization. Its certification system offers a planning and optimization tool for evaluating sustainable buildings and urban districts.
  • The DGNB Academy is an education and training platform that has already provided more than 4200 people from 40 countries with official qualifications in sustainable building.

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