Climate-Neutral Construction and Renovation – All Made Possible by Building Standards

Steinbeis experts develop system standards for implementing the Green Deal

Significant progress has been made over the past 30 years when it comes to energy-efficient and resource-saving construction, with innovative products like insulating materials, which offer the potential to improve efficiency without limiting design options. Then there is coated glass, which reduces heat loss by more than 70% and improves living standards. Progress with technology such as ultra-efficient pumps, LED lighting, and building automation systems also make it possible to save energy. Incorporated in buildings, all of these individual elements can be pulled together to create holistic building concepts based on the new process of integrated design. Experts at energieplus, the Steinbeis Innovation Center, have already demonstrated in numerous showcase projects how to use these new solutions to construct highly efficient buildings.

The challenge: progression from pilot production to mass production (Source: synavision GmbH and the energieplus Steinbeis Innovation Center)


One of the goals laid down by the European Union as part of its Green Deal is to ensure existing buildings are climate-neutral by 2050. To achieve this, the vast majority of existing buildings in Europe will have to be renovated over the coming 30 years – or significantly modernized and then used more efficiently. Therefore, the big challenge now will be to scale up from individual showcase projects to serial volumes in higher numbers.

This will mean raising the current renovation rate of approximately 1% to at least 3% of existing buildings per year – in other words working at three times the pace! Wherever possible, renovations should be prioritized over tearing down or constructing new buildings. This is because in addition to the energy needed to run new buildings, you still have to compensate for primary energy invested in construction. The infrastructure required to supply energy also plays a role in this and has to be decarbonized.

One potential solution: standardization

Aside from improving performance, to accelerate implementation it is also imperative to significantly improve the quality of their implementation. Translating sustainable concepts into tangible action has shown that energy-efficient buildings are becoming increasingly complex and sensitive. They are also vulnerable to the negative impacts of poor planning, construction methods, and operation. To scale up potential solutions, individual projects providing showcase examples must be used to develop serial production concepts. In doing so, it must be ensured that it will still be possible to cut energy consumption and reduce emissions in high volumes, without compromising functional standards.

The Special School Center On the Bult project has enabled the energieplus Steinbeis Innovation Center and the Region of Hanover to develop standards for nearly-zero-energy buildings in anticipation of regulations laid down under EU Directive 2010/31/EU, which affects the overall energy efficiency of buildings. The goal was not to experiment or try out new technologies for a beacon project, but instead to develop standards that would enable building owners or construction companies to erect sustainable buildings and carry out sustainable renovations in the required volume. This allows the Region of Hanover to systematically translate innovative technology aimed at transforming climate-neutral buildings into the required political framework.

Reliable and financially scalable standards were developed for the project, as well as a matching quality management system for introducing nearly-zero-energy buildings, thus providing a new building standard for the Region of Hanover, which was then applied to the Sponsor Center in Bult project. An important priority when it comes to construction practice was how documentation is dealt with. There is plenty of potential to standardize processes for building owners/construction companies:

  • Improved technical understanding among stakeholders working for the authorities
  • Consolidation of internal and external know-how and knowledge-sharing
  • More specific formulation of requirements for architects and specialist planners
  • Accelerated projects in accordance with quality standards
  • Standardized monitoring, less compliance-bureaucracy
  • Lower engineering, building and operation expenditures
  • Improved building performance
  • More satisfied occupants
  • Faster “transformation rate” for existing buildings

The last stages of the project coincided with the publication of the Green Deal by the European Union and the initial drafts of the EU taxonomy. Political decision-makers are thus establishing a framework for the comprehensive and sustainable conversion of existing buildings in Europe. The results of this project can now be used as a building block for the ambitious practical implication of standards, especially in the public domain.

The transformation process is gathering pace

For the next step in the transformation process toward climate-neutral buildings, in February 2021 the energieplus Steinbeis Innovation Center joined forces with the Lower Saxony Climate Protection and Energy Agency to work together with the Region of Hanover and a variety of other local authorities and cities in Lower Saxony and embark on a follow-on project. Its aim will be to develop a tool for applying technical standards and introducing a quality management system for public building authorities. The main focus of the project (title: Strong Owners – Good Buildings) will support owners, who are seen as the official provider of the mandate, the party that “places the order” for a building based on their defined standards. The project has aroused strong interest among public building owners. The scale of the positive response has galvanized the resolve of the Steinbeis experts in applying technical standards and effective quality management processes to climate-neutral buildings.

The Sponsor Center in Bult project, which was funded as part of the Eneff.Gebäude.2050 research program initiated by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (FKZ: 03EGB0003A) and the proKlima Fund in Hanover.

The Strong Owners – Good Buildings project, which is being funded by the German Federal Environmental Foundation (DBU) (Ref. 37104/01) and the proKlima Fund in Hanover.

For more information, go to www.starkebauherren-gutegebä


Dr.-Ing. Stefan Plesser (author)
Steinbeis Entrepreneur
Steinbeis Innovation Center energieplus (Braunschweig)

Martin Laatsch (author)
Steinbeis Innovation Center energieplus (Braunschweig)

Thomas Wilken (author)
Steinbeis Entrepreneur
Steinbeis Innovation Center energieplus (Braunschweig)