What we need are (office) buildings that will make us happy!
Magazine Contact #19
Mr Kaufmann, you make a powerful plea for a sustainable real estate market. What do you mean by this?
Kaufmann: The construction industry and the real estate property market can no longer dodge around the issue of sustainability. A sector that uses up to 50 percent of all resources, 40 percent of final energy consumption and is responsible for 30 percent of all CO2 emissions must finally be ready to take on responsibility for its actions. The new magic formula is: transparency and quality. It is specifically here that
Wiesner-Hager has set a real milestone and become a living example of how effective business action and the readiness to provide full and open access to all the ecological key data are in no way at cross purposes – on the contrary, transparent data creates trust and provides the basis for better decision making.
Working together with the leading economist Gunther Maier you established the pioneering organisation ÖGNI (the Austrian Association for Sustainable Real Estate Business) in 2009. What led to this development?
Kaufmann: We were united by the driving idea that the construction industry and the real estate business would have to take a firm hold of the fundamental change process for themselves and actively introduce the paradigm shift. Our non-profit association has three decisive guiding principles: defining international standards, anchoring these firmly in the industry and making full use of existing market forces.
The ÖGNI acts in accordance with the 3P approach (products, processes and persons) – a principle which the organisation developed itself. How are we to see and understand this idea?
Kaufmann: It is an integrated view of things, using the three principle support columns of products (real estate property and construction materials), processes (in companies themselves as well as in the models that exist for cooperation) and persons. Our “products” are the DGNB building evaluation system for new construction projects and the BlueCARD as a “quality label” for analysing existing buildings. In the “processes” area companies active in the construction and the real estate property business can have themselves certified for their ethical commitment and activity. This will have the effect of creating more integrity, transparency and fairness throughout the industry. By “persons” we mean those people who have sufficient competence to ensure sustainability as a value that can really be lived up to.
How does evaluation by the DGNB system function in practice?
Kaufmann: The developer commissions an ÖGNI accredited auditor and is then provided with full support from this auditor on the path to obtaining a certificate. The target values are first defined. After this the developer makes a binding declaration to implement the performance objectives as defined for a building. A preliminary certificate can be issued following the successful testing of these objectives. After the building has been completed ÖGNI checks whether the objectives have been maintained and depending on the degree of compliance the developer can then receive a seal of approval in gold, silver or bronze.
Kaufmann: Sustainable buildings are becoming an ever more important issue throughout the industry. This is because they cut the requirements for energy, drinking water or raw materials, and all of this without reducing the comfort and the standard of living of the people who use a facility. The certification makes these qualities visible. This is a motivation for investing in sustainability, because it is clearly something that will bring a payoff for the investor.
How is the DGNB system being taken up by architects and planners?
Kaufmann: These people are in fact the biggest group of ÖGNI members and they have had a decisive influence on developing the system. They use it as a planning tool for all the development phases on the path to a Blue Building.
What influence do buildings have on everyday life in an office?
Kaufmann: We spend some 92 percent of our lives indoors in various buildings. Numerous factors are of importance here for human health. In a worst case scenario a building can even make people ill. Science terms this the sick building syndrome (SBS) and there are initial suspicions on the base of evidence that 20 percent of illnesses can result from this cause (e.g. headaches, chronic coughs, dizziness, nausea, skin irritations). My call for a response is thus: What we need are buildings that will make us happy! Buildings that minimise serious ecological effects and simultaneously maximise the positive economic and socio-cultural qualities of these structures, meaning: Blue Buildings.
Blue Buildings are in fact the new green buildings. Where is the difference?
Kaufmann: We can thank the EU for this further development. It was the EU that labelled energy efficient buildings green buildings. These structures thus required not only energy efficiency, but also fulfilment of all the dimensions of sustainability – and thus ecology, economy and socio-cultural aspects – and with this a new name was coined: Blue Buildings.
What is the approach to existing buildings? Is a renovation possible up to a Blue Building standard and is this a sensible or affordable procedure?
Kaufmann: We can never solve the sustainability objectives without getting to grips with existing buildings. A brick that has already been manufactured ought to be used for as long as possible, don’t you agree? It is for precisely this reason that ÖGNI members have defined the BlueCARD as the certificate of approval for existing buildings in order to create transparency. Current technologies make it possible to improve the energy efficiency of an existing building by around 50 to 60 percent and more.