Strategic Asset

Sustainability labelling

How to measure sustainability

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For the topic group the aspect about “how to measure sustainability” it’s a key issue. Several different sustainable labelling systems are available (LEED, BREEM, etc.).

In Bremen in 2017 the DGNB sustainability labelling was presented. There was a focus on the different parameters that compose the total sustainability score. According to the “each country presentation” workshop at the moment sustainability labelling it’s not very common in social housing sector, where the main focus is still the energy efficiency.

GBC Italy

The group visited the Green Building Council Italia headquarter. During the visit Level(S) was presented. Level(s) was developed to support the European commission and it is a voluntary reporting framework to improve the sustainability of buildings. Using existing standards, Level(s) provides a common EU approach for the assessment of environmental performance in the built environment.

Level(s) provides an easy starting point to introduce sustainability into the works. Within the Level(s) framework, each indicator is designed to link the individual building’s impact with the priorities for sustainability at the European level. This focuses the Level(s) user on a manageable number of essential concepts and indicators at building level that contribute achieving EU and Member State environmental policy goals.

Green Building Italia also introduced the approach they use in their certification scheme (see picture).

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Some specific protocols have been developed for multifamily apartment and historical buildings.

How to improve sustainability in construction project – WSP approach

First of all we have to understand what sustainability means.

Wikipedia says that is “conservation of natural regenerative capacity of all systems involved”. This is a very huge definition!

Sustainability is the overlap of different aspects: environment, economy and society. There are many reason why we should talk about sustainable construction: there are global trends, changes in climate, society, technology and resources. Every year  we spend more resources than we can produce, we need to reduce our resources consumption and our carbon footprint as much and fast as possible.

Companies can act more sustainable to contribute to the global sustainability goals. How is it possible?

They have to define targets, take measures, evaluate results and communicate success.

WSP has an holistic approach, that considers context (project, environment, users), content (planner, trade, component) and time (of construction, operation and disposal). Constructions must be consider future changes to be sustainable, not only climate changes, but also society, technology and resources.

At WSP there are sustainability check to understand the sustainability label of constructions. It’s an alignment and visualization of projects status with self define status. They consider ecological, economical and socio-cultural aspects.

Considering the most common sustainability labels, like BREEAM, LEED and DGNB, we can see that environmental aspects and social aspects are very important in these labeling approach, instead economic aspect are less considered. For example Active House considers a lot environmental aspects, instead WELL label is quite only focused on social aspects. BREEAM UK and LEED are quite similar. DGNB in Germany has focus on every aspects, also economical topic, like life cycle costs and payback.

At WSP they design a sustainability concept to know how is the building performance compared to other building and to know which are the topics they are interested to improve.

They usually start with two workshop, where they define the targets and develop focuses for a sustainability concept. Then they determinate the evaluation parameters for the level of target achievement.

And following there are monitoring phase and evaluation of results. There is a further development of company specific sustainability targets and then they established a guideline for follow-up projects.

It’s very important to focus on the right targets at the beginning. In Germany there are many norms for demand planning. They have to consider functional and technical targets (risks, construction quality), socio-cultural and design targets (health, comfort, design quality), economic and temporal targets (life cycle costs, payback, financial resources, budget) and ecological targets (renewable energies, wastewater, ecosystem needs). They usually discussed about all of these topics during the workshops at the beginning.

And so we do during the workshop, each country filled the following tools.


The most important aspect at the moment is the cost, invest cost and running cost. The image is important because of the political reason and marketing, instead visibility is not very important.

Ecological aspects are not a priority at the moment, but it’s increasing.

Is interesting to see that focusing level and prioritisation levels are similar, the aims are realistic, not to high.

UK and France

Image and visibility are not very huge drivers for any of them. Ecological is changing rapidly, now is increasing. They are still driven by invest costs. Social cultural aspects are important in UK, because of the strength of the community,  but it’s not very important in France.

Realization and prioritization have the same result, focusing is lower.


Running costs, social-cultural aspects and realization are important.

The company aims are high, but the reality is different: prioritization is higher than realization.

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