In order to make sustainable building practically applicable, measurable and thus comparable, the DGNB has developed its own certification system. This was first used on the market in 2009. Since then, the DGNB System has been continuously developed and is today not only considered the most advanced worldwide, but is also internationally recognised as the Global Benchmark for Sustainability. The DGNB Certification System is available in different variants for buildings, districts and interiors. As a planning and optimisation tool, it helps all those involved in construction to implement holistic sustainability quality.
In terms of content, the DGNB System is based on three essential paradigms that set it apart from other certification systems available on the market:
- Life cycle assessment
- Holistic approach
- Performance orientation
Certification consistently considers the entire life cycle of a project and evaluates the overall performance of a project instead of individual measures.
The DGNB System is based on the three central sustainability areas of ecology, economy and socio-cultural quality, which are equally weighted in the assessment. In the sense of a holistic approach, the DGNB System also evaluates the location as well as the technical and process-related quality. The performance in these qualities can be assessed through certification criteria. These are individually adapted to different schemes and can be applied to new buildings, existing buildings, renovations and buildings in use.
Each building and each district project goes through different phases, which are linked to individual requirements and prerequisites. In these individual project phases, the actors involved also differ to some extent, who make the right decisions in terms of sustainability. For this reason, there is not just one DGNB System, but a multitude of variants. Depending on the project status, the DGNB System can be used as a planning, optimisation or management tool.
For buildings, for example, there are separate system variants for new construction, buildings in use or renovations. There are also specific DGNB System criteria sets for districts, interiors, the deconstruction of buildings and construction sites.
By reducing cost-intensive risks, the application of the DGNB System contributes to a high degree of future viability for construction projects. The independent certification process serves as a transparent quality control. As proof of this quality in building, a DGNB Certificate in Platinum, Gold or Silver can be obtained. For sustainable buildings in use or existing buildings, a bronze certificate can also be achieved. The assessment is based on the overall degree of fulfilment of the corresponding criteria and schemes.
In addition to the certificate, there are three special awards: the DGNB Diamond for design and architectural quality, the DGNB Climate Positive award for climate-neutral buildings and the DGNB special award Ecolabel. The latter is a prerequisite for new construction projects in Hamburg's urban development areas HafenCity, Billebogen, Grasbrook and Science City Hamburg Bahrenfeld.
With a share of over 80 percent in new construction and over 60 percent in the overall commercial real estate market, the DGNB is the market leader among certification system providers in Germany. In the certification of districts, the DGNB is the European leader. Worldwide, more than 10,000 awards have already been given to projects in around 30 countries that were planned, built and are operated according to the principles of the DGNB (as of 31 December 2022).
The DGNB Certification System differs from other rating systems in its holistic international approach. Since the system can be easily adapted to climatic, structural, legal and cultural peculiarities in other countries, the DGNB is able to certify worldwide. The high quality standard is maintained. Abroad, the DGNB works closely with leading local organisations in the individual countries. In Denmark, Austria, Croatia, Switzerland and Spain, the DGNB has its own system partners who are responsible for the adaptation and application of the DGNB System on site, as well as for the further training of experts in DGNB Certification.
The EU's Sustainable Finance activities have increased the regulatory requirements for developers, investors and property owners. The DGNB System is harmonised with the criteria of the EU taxonomy in such a way that proof of compliance can be provided in parallel with certification without much effort. For this purpose, the DGNB offers the ESG Verification for the EU Taxonomy. Those who want to document their project according to the EU reporting framework Level(s) can also use the DGNB System for this purpose without significant additional effort.
The DGNB System is also directly helpful in terms of financial support. It is officially recognised by the German federal government as an assessment system for sustainable building and can serve as a verification tool for obtaining the quality label "Qualitätssiegel Nachhaltiges Gebäude" (QNG) as well as the associated federal funding for efficient buildings (BEG). Some banks also require a DGNB Certificate in order to receive subsidies or more favourable loans.