Sustainable Building

Sustainability is the guiding principle of the future worldwide. Acting sustainably means taking into account ecological, social and economical criteria equally in order to leave subsequent generations with an intact structure. In civil engineering the topic is also becoming more important in light of climate change, the rise in energy prices and the fall in the availability of resources.


In 1983, the United Nations with the World Commission on Environment and Development (Brundtland Commission) founded an independent specialist commission, which drafted the guidelines for sustainable development for the first time. The current definition of sustainability is taken from the future report “Our Common Future” from 1987. The report defines sustainability as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. A further challenge in the Brundtland Report was the equal integration of social and ecological aspects, according to which the economic development was orientated. In 1992 the community of states recognised the guidelines for sustainable development in the UNO conference in Rio de Janeiro and paved the way for the global implementation of the concept of sustainability in the 21st century with Agenda 21, a groundbreaking programme.


In general, the classical understanding of sustainability is based on three dimensions: ecology, economy and socioculture, which are to be considered over a long period of time.

The goal is to observe and to evaluate the entire useful life of a building – colloquial referred to as the life time of a building. The main goal sought in the ecological dimensions is primarily the protection of resources by optimally using construction materials and products, minimising use of space for media (e.g. heat, electricity, water and sewage). The costs which go above and beyond the mere costs of purchase and assembly – especially the life cycle costs are considered in the economical dimensions of sustainability. This places the focus on life cycle costs relevant to the building, the economic viability and the value stability. As practice has shown, the life cycle costs can by far exceed the costs of construction. By analysing the life cycle costs, considerable opportunities for saving money during planning can be identified.


Committee of Governmental Secretaries for Sustainable Development

The central driving element in the Federal Government‘s sustainability politics is the Committee of Governmental Secretaries for Sustainable Development (Green Cabinet); the job of whom is to implement the national sustainability strategy, to develop its content further and to assess its implementation regularly. Above and beyond that, the committee is the main person of contact for the governmental advisory council for sustainable development, for the Federal States and the national local-authority organisations. As discussed in the Committee of Governmental Secretaries for Sustainable Development meetings from December 2008 until June 2009, building blocks for a future, sustainable government programme have been drafted. For the areas of construction and habitat, the sustainability of buildings (...) multiplied over the entire life cycle – from the production of raw materials through the erection to the dismantling – by considering ecological, economical and social aspects is to be identified in a transparent, measurable and assessable way – while simultaneously considering the design, planning and functional quality. The assessment is to be based upon the recognised, scientific methodology of the life cycle assessment and costing.

Roundtable Sustainable Building

To support the Federal Building Ministry in implementing sustainable building activities, the Roundtable Sustainable Building was founded as an advisory body for the ministry in December 2001. It consists of representatives from the building trade, industry, chambers of architects and engineers, the relevant building authorities and the science. At the roundtable, subjects such as reworking the Guideline Sustainable Building are discussed and the most important relevant research results are presented. The roundtable has founded working groups to refine diverse specialist subjects and received intensive scientific support for a research programme since 2003; this has enabled the roundtable and the working groups to prepare its contributions and the resulting recommendations for action for actual implementation to be compiled. The information gained is used for example in the update of the guideline and the Assessment System BNB. The roundtable is organised for the Federal Building Ministry by the Administrative Office for Sustainable Building in the Federal Institute for Research on Building, Urban Affairs and Spatial Development (BBSR).

Administrative Office for Sustainable Building

The division II 5 – Sustainable Building – in the BBSR fulfils the duties of the Administrative Office for Sustainable Building. It supports the Federal Building Ministry in specialist and organisational issues, for example in implementing and developing the Assessment System for Sustainable Building, but also by representing the Federal Building Ministry in advisory board meetings, in public relations and the maintenance of the Sustainable Building Information Portal  ( The web site contains


▪    Explanations and advice for sustainable construction,

▪    Federal guidelines and practical aids,

▪    Information regarding the BNB evaluation system for sustainable building,

▪    Comprehensive data basis for the assessment of sustainability,

▪    Information regarding research projects and events,

▪    Exhibition of good examples of sustainable building,

▪    a platform for the members of the roundtable.


The division also conducts experiments – amongst other things – to further develop the BNB and to transfer the system to other building categories. Beyond that, the division supports diverse research projects in the cluster “Sustainable Building” as part of the research initiative “Future Building” and supports the Federal Building Ministry in scientific political counsel and public relations.

Flyer NBauen-eng (307 KB)

 (c) Informationsportal Nachhaltiges Bauen des BMUB