A new lease of life

Since its construction in 1970, the residential and commercial building at Argentinische Allee 221 in Berlin has never been particularly striking, unlike the neighbouring Waldsiedlung Forest Estate designed by Bruno Taut. Now, thanks to an investment of approximately EUR 5 million, that has changed.

The typical 1970s building now forms an architectural link to – and demarcation of – the Waldsiedlung estate. Thanks to extensive construction work, it has also become a showpiece of sustainable building, complying with standards which are otherwise only used for new construction. To achieve this, the company had the whole process from planning to construction certified by the German Sustainable Building Council (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Nachhaltiges Bauen – DGNB). This involved an assessment of more than 30 criteria relating to ecology, economy, technology, sociostructural and functional quality as well as site and process quality. Energy consumption deserves a special mention: it was reduced by 80%. This corresponds to approximately 100 tonnes less carbon dioxide – each year.

Gold status

Deutsche Wohnen was awarded Gold status by the DGNB for its refurbishment of the residential and commercial building in Argentinische Allee. This commendation is awarded following an in-depth examination of the construction measures, which also include the adoption of a comprehensive life-cycle approach, the use of sound, high-quality materials, and the implementation of sustainable energy, water and traffic concepts. In the interview which follows with Prof. Alexander Rudolphi – President and co-founder of the German Sustainable Building Council (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Nachhaltiges Bauen – DGNB) – the significance of sustainable building is highlighted.

Sustainable building – an interview with Prof. Alexander Rudolphi

What does sustainable building mean to you?

At the DGNB, sustainability is synonymous with quality and future viability. It’s about the environment and people as well as the cost-effectiveness of construction work. This means important decisions have to be made at an early stage of planning which take the whole life cycle into account – not just the costs incurred during the construction phase. The criteria addressed in the DGNB certification provide a good overview of the topics in question. These start with resource efficiency and the avoidance of hazardous substances and high-risk materials but also include flexibility and convertibility plus sociocultural aspects such as high-quality accommodation.

What is the importance of this way of building, both now and in the future?

both now and in the future? It’s of fundamental importance. After all, the construction sector has a central role to play in solving key global challenges like climate change and resource scarcity. If we keep on building like many companies still do today, we are headed for a dead end. We need to consider the whole life cycle of a building in our decisions and learn to focus on the objective in our thought processes and actions. That is why the principle of certification is important because it offers a shared basis for all those involved in construction and makes sustainability applicable. It makes implemented choices measurable and therefore transparent.

From left to right:
Sebastian Höfker, Deutsche Wohnen Project Lead New Construction,
Prof. Alexander Rudolphi, president of DGNB,
Michael Zahn, CEO Deutsche Wohnen

And what role do you believe legislators have in this?

A very important role in Germany. In the construction industry here, we have both firms who are determined to maintain business as usual and a large number of companies that wait until something has been accepted by the market or becomes a legal requirement. For that reason, it would considerably speed up the further development of sustainable building if legislators adopted objectives like those we have set out in connection with our certification scheme – via subsidies or inclusion in approvals processes, for example.

The Deutsche Wohnen project in Argentinische Allee has been awarded Gold status, which is the second-highest grade. What makes this project so special?

Every DGNB-certified project has taken wide-ranging sustainability criteria into consideration in a conscious, holistic fashion. That also applies to the refurbishment project in Argentinische Allee. It performed particularly well with regard to ecological and economic quality.