Stellar architecture - rewarded with the HafenCity Ecolabel

Outstanding and special accomplishments in construction of sustainable buildings in the new district have been certified with the HafenCity Ecolabel since 2007. HafenCity played a pioneering role here, coming up with its benchmark two years before the launch of comparable certification valid throughout Germany

Photo shows award of preliminary certification for HafenCity Ecolabel

Robert Vogel KG was the first private developer to receive preliminary certification for the gold HafenCity Ecolabel for the Spiegel media building, currently under construction (© ELBE&FLUT) Start slideshow

HafenCity’s model of sustainability is safeguarded by a framework of ambitious provisions - after all, this emergent part of town is expected to exist throughout the 21st century - and well beyond. Since 2007 HafenCity Hamburg GmbH has been awarding the gold Ecolabel for extraordinary, and the silver Ecolabel for special attainments in realizing sustainable buildings. The award is designed to motivate private and public developers to handle resources responsibly. In addition to the ecological factors, it also evaluates economic and social sustainability. Here, HafenCity Hamburg GmbH is a pioneer because certification valid throughout Germany was not introduced until January 2009 by the German association for sustainable building (DGNB).

Ecolabels may be awarded on a preliminary basis even before construction begins. The developer has to make the relevant application by submitting technical planning documents identifying the building’s special or outstanding claims to sustainability. After these documents have been approved by an independent assessor, the Ecolabel will be awarded preliminarily. This gives builders and developers the chance to feature preliminary certification in their marketing phase. Potential purchasers or lessees have the advantage of receiving confirmation of the sustainable features of their desired real estate project from an independent assessor. A final certificate will only be awarded once the building project is completed and the implementation of sustainability standards can be proven.

Initially the Ecolabel applied to residential, office and special constructions. But since increasing numbers of buildings with retail or hotel uses and multi-uses are going up in central and eastern HafenCity, these building types can also be certified as of 2010. The expanded Ecolabel addresses more options for the various use requirements; it can thus apply to all essential building types to be found in an inner city.

Certification breaks down into five categories, which can be refined or added to as necessary, or be subject to stricter benchmarks. The first category of the criteria catalog to be fulfilled is a significant reduction of primary energy consumption (well below statutory requirements) for running a building. For residential buildings, the strict passive-house standard has to be achieved.

In the Ecolabel’s second category, construction projects that manage public goods in a sustainable manner, for instance by using advanced sanitary equipment to cut water consumption, will score.  Recognition is also given for efficient use of publicly accessible areas, for instance by planning in cafés on ground floors, or creating roof gardens.In the third category, HafenCity rewards the use of ecofriendly construction materials. Buildings must be free of materials containing halogen, volatile solvents or biocides. All tropical wood has to stem from certified, sustainable sources.

Particular consideration of health and well-being belong to the fourth cate-gory. Decisive factors here are parameters such as comfortable room temperature, non-allergenic fixtures and fittings, reverberation and sound insulation.

Revision of the criteria also means that users now have even greater influence on glare protection and air circulation in automatically air-conditioned spaces.

Completely barrier-free mobility constitutes the fifth category. Buildings should be easily accessible for people with limited mobility. Washrooms, for example, should provide plenty of space. Sustainable building facility operations including low maintenance and the use of durable materials is also part of this, category. A "monitoring" certificate to show the actual consumption of energy has to be provided in the building’s first two years of operation.

The Ecolabel has very quickly proven a huge success: within two years, preliminary certification was awarded, applied for or received for around 240,000 sq. m of gross floor area (status: spring 2010). Gold has been awarded preliminarily to Katharinenschule primary, the Unilever building, the new Spiegel group publishing building, the new HafenCity University building, the Commercial Center building at Sandtorpark, as well as to an ensemble in Elbtorquartier to be occupied, among others, by Greenpeace Deutschland and the design center designxport. Other buildings will quickly follow because tender invitations now increasingly include the requirement that the building project concerned should meet the stringent standards of the gold Ecolabel – and tenants tend to insist on them more often. The aim is to reach a level of 30 per cent gold certification throughout central and eastern HafenCity, although the actual level achieved is expected to be a lot higher. In future, buildings which include residential uses will only be able to be built if they comply with the gold standard Ecolabel. So it is clear that, although sustainability in HafenCity is a timeless concept, the criteria will be continually developed in order to achieve the most effective results possible.

Certified buildings at gold standard:
Unilever building
SPIEGEL headquarters
Centurion Commercial Center
NIDUS joint building venture

Buildings with preliminary gold certification:
HafenCity University
Katharinenschule primary with childcare center and residential units
Elbarkaden building with Greenpeace headquarters, apartments and designport
Ecumenical Forum HafenCity

Buildings expected to attain gold standard:
residential building 42
Musicians' house
Further buildings in the central HafenCity

Buildings with preliminary silver certification:
Sumatra-Kontor (Überseequartier)