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How one pilot project could inspire a green building revolution

24 May 2018

The European Commission’s new sustainable buildings framework, Level(s) is highly ambitious. It aims to tackle climate change, create a better environment and improve resource use by measuring the environmental impact of a building across its entire life cycle.

All this sounds very impressive, but how do you begin to convert this dramatic rhetoric into reality? This is what the pilot phase of Level(s) is intending to demonstrate.

You build it. Literally. You lay the foundations, put up the walls and put on the roof. And at every step of the way, you collaborate and share what you have learned with everyone who can make a difference on a national, regional and global level. It’s about scale. One great sustainable Level(s) pilot project building could inspire many more.

In 2017, our Knauf Insulation Experience Center in Slovenia was selected to participate in the testing phase for Level(s). Now, six months into construction, the two storey 640m2 building is becoming a sustainability showcase for everyone involved.

And there are a lot of people involved, all contributing valuable expertise or benefiting from the pilot project. There are Commission representatives assessing the research; support from WorldGBC’s Europe Regional Network (ERN) and forensically detailed assessments by the German Sustainable Building Council (DGNB).

The results of this collaborative effort are already being felt with architects, policy-makers and other building sector stakeholders throughout the supply chain closey monitoring our experience of testing Level(s).

What is particularly exciting is the fact that the Slovenian government is looking into Level(s) as a way to reshape the country’s building sustainability strategy.

Saša Galonia, Head of Construction Division Spatial Planning, Construction and Housing Directorate at the Slovenian Environment Ministry said: “We are delighted to observe this pilot project from initial design to final completion. This project represents a reality check for the application of new sustainability requirements in our country.”

Josefina Lindblom at the Unit of Sustainable Production, Products and Consumption at the European Commission for DG Environment, commented that Level(s) test phase offers a unique opportunity to “create an ambitious long-term vision for a better sustainable built environment in Europe”.

At Knauf, we are particularly excited about the potential of Level(s) to transform Europe’s building market.  Vincent Briard, our Sustainability and Product Regulatory Affairs Director, stated: “Level(s) could pave the way for an exciting new life cycle-focused legislative approach to sustainable buildings in Europe. Certainly, that’s our hope because at Knauf Insulation life cycle assessments and Environmental Product Declarations have always been at the heart of everything we do.”

Audrey Nugent, ERN’s Senior Policy Adviser, echoes the long-term importance of this life cycle approach to sustainable buildings. “Level(s) will enable governments across Europe to incorporate the concept of the circular economy into their own national plans and ensure these are aligned with European priorities and efforts to tackle climate change.”

Then there is DGNB certification system for sustainable building. We are working to ensure the Knauf Insulation Experience Center is the first building in Slovenia to be certified by DGNB — ideally at Gold level — and this has meant an intense focus on the highest standards of sustainable building best practice.

Finally, for Knauf Insulation, the pilot has obviously been an incredible opportunity to demonstrate green building leadership.  As observed by our technical support lead Primož Bernard: “The process of building this centre involves a level of sustainability detail that is incredibly complex and hugely inspiring. The standards that have been prescribed are the highest I have ever worked with and achieving them is an amazing education for everyone involved.”

The new two-storey Knauf Insulation Experience Center is next to Knauf’s Škofja Loka plant in Slovenia and will feature areas for demonstrations, digital experiences, show-rooms, offices, technical rooms, lecture halls and meeting rooms. Work will be completed later this year.