‘Build, build, build – as quickly and cost-effectively as possible’: this mantra can currently be heard over and over and again in the political arena. It is not only in Germany that cities are in urgent need of additional, affordable housing. In this context, many people feel that standards established in the areas of fire prevention, soundproofing and thermal insulation are merely burdensome cost-drivers, propagated by representatives of those industries that stand to gain considerably from the regular tightening of regulations.
The inferno in London’s Grenfell Tower may well have marked a turning point in this debate, at least when it comes to fire prevention. Where there is a hazard to human life, a small percentage increase in costs for higher standards should be absorbed. The situation with regard to energy regulations for buildings is more difficult. Poor insulation standards and inefficient, fossil-fuelled heating systems are not fatal. Yet our CO2 emissions are endangering the lives of future generations. Pointing the finger at dirty coal power stations or fuel-guzzling cars in other parts of the world is of no help to anyone; climate protection means structural transformation, including in the European building industry.
Nevertheless, questions as to what sustainable building actually means and what level of comfort buildings should achieve need to be raised. Rainer Vallentin addresses these topics in his article in this issue, while Hans Schmid and Wilfried Doppler focus on the effects of contemporary building on birdlife. In addition, DETAIL green reports on a facade renovation rich in pan-European symbolism, Europe’s largest ‘vertical garden’ and promising new developments in the colouring and surface design of solar modules. After all, design aspirations should be retained even though energy standards in the building industry are becoming increasingly ambitious.