Sustainable Construction at Daimler - What is it?

Sustainability in an automotive company involves not only efficient product development and resource-saving production. Anika Dittmar should know. She works on the sustainability of office and production buildings at Daimler and has interesting things to report.

Ms. Dittmar, you are driving forward with sustainability building practices at Daimler. To start with, here is a question for you: What are we to understand under sustainable construction?

Let me explain sustainable building to you based on three pillars. The first is the cost pillar and examines the optimal cost-use relationships. Not only under the aspect of building costs, but also with respect to usage. The second pillar are the people and their well-being. Employees should feel good while they work. And in closing, there is the environmental pillar. The goal is to minimize the negative environmental effects of building construction and building operations as much as possible.

It is important that sustainable building takes these aspects into account and plans with a view to the longer-term future. A building has a useful life of about 50 years. For example, the work processes or workplace concepts will change over time. Sustainable building considers the re-purposing capability that can enable converting a production building into an office building or individual offices into an open plan office.

What is the significance of sustainable building for Daimler?

Sustainability plays an important role for Daimler in general. Our corporate strategy includes sustainability targets and we continuously strive to reduce the CO₂ emissions and energy consumption with more efficient processes in product development. But we also look at environmental protection as a whole. Sustainable buildings lead to reduced costs, satisfied employees and fewer environmental influences, and are thus important for Daimler.

What goals has Daimler set for itself with respect to sustainable building? Just long-term cost savings?

Our goal as Strategic Planning is to propose uniform ways and solutions for sustainable planning, building and operations that create value added for the entire company. The secondary objectives are the reduction of total costs, as well as the increase of employee satisfaction and reduction of the sickness rate.

Anika Dittmar is driving the strategy of sustainable construction at Daimler.

How is sustainable building promoted at Daimler?

The first step is to anchor a general understanding into people's heads. We offer possibilities for examining the topic area through consulting advice, best practice examples or calculation tools. However, our most important guard rail is our independently developed catalog of criteria.

Can you tell us more about this catalog? What criteria does it include?

I'll be glad to. It is Daimler's proprietary version of an evaluation system for sustainable building. The criteria define the requirements that should be in place for the planning, building construction and the operation. Because of the multifaceted nature of these requirements, we have subdivided them into the aforementioned three pillars: Life cycle costs, user comfort and environmental protection.

You say that it's Daimler's own version. Why is Daimler going to this trouble? Why not use the standards that have already been defined by the German Sustainable Building Council (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Nachhaltiges Bauen (DGNB))?

You see it as extra effort, we see it as a relief. We have established that many criteria do not apply to us. To give you an example, The public access. This is not possible at our production plants and development locations. In addition, the DGNB doens't evaluate our internal plant network, which however is partly serviced with regenerative energy, for example. An additional aspect is the process and personnel efforts that arise for keeping the required documentation for the DGNB. In comparison, we have achieved a cost reduction of 65 – 90 percent with our concept. We are basically pursuing the same objective as the DGNB, but with less bureaucracy. In addition, there is another aspect of sustainability as well: When we engage external auditors, who however leave the company after completing their assignment, we also lose the collected know-how. With our approach we are anchoring the understanding of sustainable building into the heads of our employees.

Could you name a few examples from the criteria catalog?

Of course, the classic example is the topic of "energy". We assess the energy efficiency or the choice of energy source. The cleaning is another point. To start with, it should be considered how a facade is cleaned in order to avoid unnecessary barriers or the costs of climbers. Another criterion is the ease of dismantling and waste disposal. Am I using the possibility of a mechanical connection to enable the stripping and recycling of the raw materials? Or do I want to glue the building components together and demolish the building after several years? In the outer area, for example, we can point to light pollution. The optimized lighting does not irritate migratory birds, fewer moths die and the harmony of flora and fauna is generally maintained.

However, we are also dealing intensively with the future and are trying to steer project managers towards sustainable planning and building. What fundamental changes will we experience in the next decades? What scenarios do I recognize already? At present, for example, the focus of our social development is on the topic of electromobility. What prerequisites do I have to create to be able to charge electric vehicles in front of the building?

These are all aspects, which we take into account.

Charging stations at the workplace? In any case, this is a key aspect with respect to sustainability.

Do all criteria have to be met by the building contractor?

No, if 80 percent of the criteria are met, the building has achieved the Daimler sustainability standard.

Until now we have spoken only of new buildings. What do you do with respect to the existing buildings?

For renovations of existing buildings there is a modified catalog of criteria. Of course, I can no longer change the existing fabric of the building, but I can optimize the internal processes within the building with a view to sustainability. How is waste disposed of? How is the building cleaned? How is the consumption? One aspect is a good building fabric, another is having efficient operational processes. Even in a very sustainable building, running heating, lights or printers that are still on can destroy the efficiency.

Thanks for the interview!

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