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Ecobuilding - Building Optimisation with Total Quality (TQ) Assessment

The construction, use, and disposal of buildings cause expenses, material flows, energy consumption, and emissions. With intelligent design, construction, management, and marketing, it is possible to reduce environmental burdens and costs, improve building quality, and increase building value.

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The construction, use, and disposal of buildings cause expenses, material flows, energy consumption, and emissions. With intelligent design, construction, management, and marketing, it is possible to reduce environmental burdens and costs, improve building quality, and increase building value.

Targeted instruments result in a substantial reduction in environmental impact. Not only legal measures but also policy instruments which address market forces -- such as building certificates based on building assessment results -- are an important means of increasing building performance and reducing environmental impact. Building assessment systems provide building performance information such as that regarding energy consumption, materials used, and operational costs. Assessment systems define various levels of performance within the marketplace, above and beyond the minimum defined by codes and standards. As a consequence, building assessment results can be utilised as a marketing instrument, thus increasing the demand for cost-efficient, user-friendly, and environmentally sound buildings. At the same time, they produce a substantial reduction in environmental impact.

It was the objective of "Ecobuilding - Building Optimisation with Total Quality (TQ) Assessment" to develop an assessment system like mentioned above, as a means to increase building performance and reduce environmental impact. Project result is a tool named "Total Quality (TQ) - Assessment".

The TQ Building Assessment Tool

The TQ Building Assessment Tool sets target values as standards to be met in design. These standards are then referenced by the professionals planning the goals to be met by a particular building project. The assessment process that follows building completion serves to ascertain the extent to which goals have been realised, thus documenting building quality. Comprehensive information that is useful for building management and for renovation (i.e., retrofitting and redevelopment) planning results from the assessment process. Furthermore, the data resulting from the assessment process are used to evaluate the level of quality achieved by the building in question, with the option to certify this in the form of a Building Quality Certificate. This Certificate expresses the level of quality along a scale of terms that can be easily understood, also by such non-specialists as potential tenants. The latter is important because the Certificate should be useful to the developer or owner in their marketing of the building.

Assessment Information Package for Professionals

The data used in documenting building quality and awarding a Building Quality Certificate are provided by architects, building technology planners, and a variety of other specialists, and must be as compatible as possible. The professionals involved are of course interested in avoiding any extra design work, and they also welcome help in achieving certificate results that are as positive as possible.

For these reasons, a comprehensive information package has been developed which includes all the materials relevant to the process of integrated building assessment. This package informs officials, developers, designers, and architects as well as consumers as to what practical and concrete steps can be taken to create buildings that are economical as well as user- and environment-friendly.

The TQ Information Package consists of 5 parts:

PART 1 Description of the Assessment Method
Assessment Principles and Objectives, Description of the Total Quality Assessment System
PART 2 An Overview of the Assessment Criteria
List of Assessment Criteria
PART 3 TQ Manual: Assessment criteria, Target values, and "Toolbox"
Description of the individual criteria and their corresponding target values; Assistance and instructions for collecting data and calculating indicators for certification
PART 4 TQ Tool for Data Collection and Assessment
Programmed spreadsheet (Excel) for data collection and assessment
PART 5 TQ Building Quality Certificate
A form to be used for the "Building Quality Certificate"

The TQ information package is available at

TQ Manual and the TQ Tool

The TQ Manual (Part 3) and the TQ Tool for Assessment and Data Collection (Part 4), they are the central elements of the information package. The TQ Tool (Excel spreadsheet) serves for data collection, the data input fields automatically being linked with the TQ assessment procedure which is part of the programmed spreadsheet: next to the information entered into the spreadsheet, the assessment result appears. The TQ Tool allows to see the pure information about the building and all levels of aggregation with regard to the assessment. In order to improve the user friendliness of the system, the TQ Tool does not allow to see the assessment scales and the assessment procedure. However, this information is available in Part 1 of the Information Package and in Part 3, in the TQ Manual.

The TQ Manual presents the quality-related criteria and target values in detail. Additionally, the Manual includes information on how to collect data and how to calculate the indicators for assessment, the goal being for all assessment results to be comparable in the end. With this system, it is possible to choose project goals in relation to those target values which would result in the best assessment. In general, the TQ Manual is designed to assist in the development of planning goals and can be used as such; specifically, the manual is intended to be used in filling in the TQ Tool.

The TQ Manual is compatible with the TQ Tool (as Excel file). The explanations in the Manual serve as a help text for the TQ Tool itself. The Manual is presented in accord with the system of assessment criteria in the TQ-Tool. The following aspects are dealt with for each criterion:

  1. Introduction - why the criterion is important
  2. Design goals - which specifications should be discussed in the course of design
  3. Assessment with the TQ Tool - how the criterion is currently assessed; how many points are awarded in the TQ Tool for which target values
  4. Toolbox - target values for design; compendium of information on all criteria; directions for the collection and calculation of data to be used in filling in the TQ Tool

In order to guarantee the usefulness for practitioners, the TQ Assessment System was presented in the e3building Forum, a network consisting of building practitioners. Two discussions held in this Forum ensure that project results meet the requirements of the building practice.

Assessment Criteria

The design goals were formulated to be independent of one another. With the TQ Tool, goal conflicts become apparent and can be dealt with by the design team. Only when goal conflicts are made transparent in this way can a building be optimised as a whole. In a real project, not all criteria can be optimised at once. Goal conflicts are inevitable and ought to be seen as a creative moment in the design process. Decisive is the achievement of overall high project quality.

Without exception, the quality criteria refer to building goals for which the construction and design teams are responsible. In designing and constructing high-quality buildings, the aim is to provide for optimal technical systems as well as for energy-conservation in building management and use. Monitoring during the life cycle of the building verifies whether the building complies with these goals once in use.

Monitoring serves to check on the effects of building use; monitoring results serve to highlight weak points and to help in planning and implementing measures to correct or improve these points. For this reason, only criteria which can change in the course of building use are monitored. These criteria are indicated in the assessment part of the TQ Manual, however, the TQ Tool needs some adaptation in order to be applicable in the building utilisation phase .

The TQ Tool can generally also be used in renovation (i.e., retrofitting and redevelopment) planning. In certain cases, renovation options are limited, which is reflected in an appropriately adjusted assessment scale. Again, the TQ Tool needs some adaptation in order to be applicable for building stock. This task is dealt with in another project being carried in the framework of the European Commission program LIFE.

The TQ Tool can be used in assessing either single-family or multi-unit homes, and either residential or commercial buildings. The TQ Manual presents different assessment scales to be used in cases where planning goals and quality criteria depend upon building use and building size. The TQ Tool chooses the appropriate scales are automatically.

The Manual described here is based upon (1) the results of the Austrian GBC '98 project /1/; (2) upon the results of the first and second phases of the global Green Building Challenge (GBC), whose participating countries included Austria, Germany, and Switzerland; and (3) the implementation of these results by the GBC Manual of the brick manufacturing industries of the latter three countries) /2/.

Regular revisions of the TQ information package are intended, so that the Tool will keep up with new developments and thus retain its usefulness in the long term.

Considering the complexity of the field dealt with by the TQ Building Assessment Tool, it must be seen as presenting quite a challenge. The tool described here is a compromise between the demands of a scientific approach and considerations of practical applicability in terms of data collection and verification. The justification lies, obviously, in that a tool for quality improvement in the building sector can only be effective if it is actually used.

Our British colleagues from BRE have have been an example to us because they have been very successfully implementing assessments with the BREEAM system since the early 1990s. BREEAM is regularly revised to retain its relevance to the current situation.

/1/ Geissler, S. (1999): Green Building Challenge - Integrierte Gebäudebeurteilung von Gebäuden hinsichtlich Umweltauswirkungen und Nutzerfreundlichkeit. Endbericht zum Projekt gefördert vom Bundesministerium für wirtschaftliche Angelegenheiten, Wien

/2/ Bruck, M.(2000), Green Building Challenge: Ganzheitliche Qualitätskriterien im Wohnbau: GBC-Handbuch der Ziegelindustrie (Hg. v. Bundesverband der Deutschen Ziegelindustrie, Verband Österreichischer Ziegelwerke, Verband Schweizerische Ziegelindustrie), Website:

Project Partners

Project management: Mag. Susanne Geissler
Österreichisches Ökologie-Institut

Dr. Manfred Bruck
Kanzlei Dr. Bruck


Mag. Susanne Geissler
Oesterreichisches Oekologie-Institut
Seidengasse 13
A 1070 Wien
Tel.: +43 1 523 61 05

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