DGNB Framework

Framework for carbon neutral buildings and sites

The Framework for carbon neutral buildings and sites of the DGNB makes a significant contribution to making the decarbonisation of the building stock practically feasible by 2050. The current version of August 2020 is based on an initial version published in 2018. Its methodology has been evaluated in numerous projects. This version in english serves as a basis for an international application.

What is the framework?

In the framework, the DGNB has compiled its definition of carbon neutrality and the corresponding explanations of procedures and strategies. The aim of the document is to create clarity on the market and to educate all actors involved in the planning, construction, operation and management of real estate with regard to effective optimisation approaches for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Specifically, the framework describes comprehensive, practically applicable rules for accounting the CO2 emissions of buildings and sites. Based on the definitions formulated there for carbon neutrality in the operation and construction of buildings, the framework provides the basis for developing building-specific climate action strategies. The basis for this is provided by individual Climate Action Roadmaps, as presented in the framework. In six steps, it is shown how each building obtains its specific action plan to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 at the latest in the most economical way.

The framework also provides support for the concrete implementation and evaluation of the measures derived from the strategy and defines the framework for corresponding CO2 reporting.

Structure and content of the framework

The framework presents the following four basic elements of a climate action strategy in detail:

Part 1: CO2 accounting for status assessment

The CO2 account for real estate as well as the associated policy allows a precise evaluation of the current greenhouse gas emissions of buildings based on the measured consumption data. In this way it provides the foundation for determining actual action requirements on the path to carbon neutrality. A solid decision foundation is required in order to minimise the risk of investing into stranding assets. This means that CO2 accounting must be sufficiently meaningful in order to depict the actual greenhouse gas emissions as fully as possible.

Accounting of greenhouse gas emissions for the accounting scope 'Operation and Construction'

Accounting of greenhouse gas emissions for the accounting scope 'Operation and Construction'

Sections from part 1 of the framework:

  1. Preliminary remarks and constraints
  2. Basic principles of Carbon accounting
  3. Accounting scope and accounting rules
  4. Data collection for CO2 accounts
  5. Usage and deductibility of renewable energy suppliers
  6. CO2 compensation
  7. Credits from energy export
  8. Reliability of the results and data quality indicator
  9. CO2 emission factors
  10. Calculation tools for determining the energy demand and greenhouse gas emissions
  11. Accounting documentation and quality assurance
  12. Outlook

CO2 accounting tool

In order to support all actors in the realisation of their climate action measures, the DGNB provides a CO2 calculator that helps you to calculate your CO2 balance. In addition, this tool supports you in the presentation of your building-specific Climate Action Roadmap and the annual review of your CO2 balance. As part of the DGNB Certification for Buildings in Use, you can use the tool to provide the relevant evidence for your CO2 balance.


A manual on how to use the tool can be found here:


Part 2: Climate Action Roadmap

Climate action and the associated investments must be planned in a focused manner. Only those who define clear objectives for their buildings, sustain these and implement measures in a future-orientated manner can optimally combine climate action and economic viability. It is important here that this is carried out for each building individually. This is the only way in which valid measurement plans can be developed which are designed with a focus on the specific conditions.

Principle illustration of a Climate Action Roadmap with individual decarbonisation path

Principle illustration of a Climate Action Roadmap with individual decarbonisation path

Sections of part 2 of the framework:

  1. Target and benefits of Climate Action Roadmap
  2. Basic principles
  3. Creation of a Climate Action Roadmap
    ■ Step 1: Determining the initial condition
    ■ Step 2: Potential analysis for relevant focus areas
    ■ Step 3: Cost assessment of the measures
    ■ Step 4: Time planning of the measures and determining the targets
    ■ Step 5: Documentation and quality assurance of the creation of a Climate Action Roadmap
    ■ Step 6: Determining responsibilities and planning the first implementation steps

Part 3: CO2 reporting

Many stakeholder groups of actors are interested in the key figures relating to building CO2 emissions: Building owners, planners, managers, investors, financial experts, political decision-makers as well as clients, employees and residents. The information which flows into rental and purchasing decisions acts as evidence to financial backers or proves the effectiveness of the climate action measures implemented. A structured format for the transparent, regular communication of this key metric forms a climate action passport.

Sections of part 3 of the framework:

  1. Climate action management on the basis of the Climate Action Roadmaps
  2. Communication of climate action relevant information
  3. Climate action-relevant information in external reporting

Part 4: Quality assurance and verification

It is necessary to verify a site independently in order to reliably check whether the implemented climate action measures are actually effective and the set goals have been met. There are different external quality assurance methods available depending on whether the optimisation measures in the operation of a building concern an entirely new construction or a comprehensive renovation. The award associated with this together with a certificate create transparency and strengthen the credibility.

Sections of part 4 of the framework:

  1. Quality assurance for reliable target achievement
  2. Incentives for more climate action with DGNB certifications

Link of the framework to DGNB certification

The DGNB System can be understood as an incentive to apply the framework and put climate action into practice. The various forms of DGNB Certification offer different starting points and motivations for dealing with climate action requirements. These include, for example, the planning and execution of new buildings or renovations with low CO2 emissions from construction or carbon neutral building operation.

Particularly in the DGNB System for Buildings in Use, which was fundamentally revised in 2020, the climate action requirements are closely coordinated with the framework. For example, the regular monitoring and reduction of CO2 emissions as well as the creation and application of individual climate action roadmaps, as specified in the framework, are addressed. Buildings that are demonstrably operated in a carbon neutral manner based on their real consumption data can receive the DGNB Climate Positive award.

Further sources related to the framework

In parallel to this new version of the Framework, the DGNB has also published 'Climate positive: now! How every building can make a contribution to climate action'. This shows more detailed backgrounds as to why the building and real estate sector play a central role in climate action and why a paradigm shift is needed in handling our buildings. Moreover, focus areas are mentioned which have a significant influence on making buildings carbon neutral.


Dr. Anna Braune
Director Research and Development
Phone: +49 711 722322-67
a.braune at dgnb.de

Framework for carbon neutral buildings and sites

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