News articles

Education and Training in Sustainable Construction

How do we become a society that WANTS to live and build sustainably? A plea for education and training in sustainable construction.


Vivihouse was developed together with graduates of the MEng Sustainable Building, © Robert Bodnar

Text Karin Stieldorf


Alongside the pandemic, the Ukraine war and inflation, coping with climate change remains the greatest and certainly the most protracted challenge of our time. In this context, the question of "The future we want" plays a key role: with the creation of the Austrian Road Map 2050 this question will be answered, focusing on mobility, smart cities, the energy industry and digitalization - thus on topics that are significant for sustainable construction. For, it was a long time before the wake-up calls and intentions of the pioneers of the industry were taken seriously, but they are now pleased not only about the spirit of optimism, but also about the breadth they have gained and the much more holistic approach than a few years ago.

Review and Overview

First of all, a brief overview will be given of what has been achieved in the last 25 years with regard to sustainable construction:

  • With the development of the energy certificate and its establishment as a mandatory instrument, the energy efficiency standard of new buildings was significantly increased, although the renovation rate of existing buildings shrank at the same time. There is a need to catch up here. Even if the energy efficiency of new buildings has been raised significantly, there is still "room for improvement".
  • The majority of building assessments are now based on the three pillars of ecology, economy and socio-cultural aspects. A very good technical standard has been achieved here, which has been established almost throughout Europe and has also been harmonized in part. Breeam (UK), DGNB (GE), Minergie (CH), ÖGNI and ÖGNB (AT), HQE (F), CasaClima (I), LEED (USA), LEVELS (EU) are some of the assessment tools frequently used in Europe. The framework for a harmonizing, internationally oriented and networked further development is provided by a new technical standards committee (FNA 271), which is excellently staffed and has aroused much interest both in the building industry and among planners.
  • The applications of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and Life Cycle Cost Assessment (LCCA) have been consolidated in building assessment, and the mandatory European Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) for building materials provides quantified environmental information from the life cycle, thus enabling the comparison of different products. This development has been well received and has led not only to better environmental understanding but also to improvements in production.
  • Circular economy issues are being communicated and are beginning to take root.
  • The conversion of energy sources and energy supply was supported and intensive research was carried out through subsidies. The results help to set the steps that are indispensable as a result of the current political situation and must now also be tackled urgently and energetically.
  • Renewable energy sources are being better promoted and are gaining ground - building-integrated photovoltaics in particular have arrived on the market.
  • Spatial planning and urban development aspects - such as the appropriate density in each case or the degree of compatible sealing of floor space - were not only discussed intensively, but also "taken along" in competitions accordingly.
  • The importance of digitization in the construction sector and its acceptance have increased significantly: Building Information Modeling (BIM) as well as calculation and simulation tools are increasingly used and the interfaces required for networking have been/are being developed. This has made it easier to carry out iterative optimization steps.
  • Overall, much has progressed – not least, or especially, because institutions such as the Austrian Institute for Building Technology have made sustainable construction their concern and ensure that appropriate guidelines are in place.

Nevertheless, the strategic and organizational changes required for sustainable construction demand great commitment, strength and effort from many active in the construction sector. Often, the knowledge that enables the necessary changes must also first be acquired. This is often underestimated in terms of the time required and its availability. In knowledge transfer, too, rethinking and reorientation are prerequisites for enabling transfer. Conviction, expertise, networked thinking and the willingness to think innovatively about the future are what teachers need to bring to the table and are relevant if colleagues from the field and newcomers want to be made fit for a sustainable future.

Education and Training

Two examples of the successful transfer of knowledge from one's own environment may be mentioned here:

Master's Course in Sustainable Construction

On the one hand, there is the master's course in Sustainable Construction, which is a cooperation between TU Wien and TU Graz. The course directors are Karin Stieldorf, TU Wien, who has already been appointed, and Alexander Passer, TU Graz, who has now been appointed. Alexander Passer is also the new Professor of Sustainable Construction at the Faculty of Architecture at TU Graz. He focuses on life-cycle-based sustainability assessment as well as low-emission, climate-robust construction methods, and brings knowledge, experience and great commitment. Founded ten years ago in the meantime, the master's program in Sustainable Construction is primarily dedicated to raising awareness of holistic, life-cycle approaches to construction activities. Graduates are empowered to realize the principles of sustainable management in project development, planning and execution, as well as in the operation and removal of buildings. In cooperation with the Austrian Society for Sustainable Real Estate Management (ÖGNI), it is possible to be trained as an auditor within the framework of this course. At the end, the academic degree Master of Engineering (MEng) or the degree certificate of the TU Graz and the TU Wien is awarded. Prerequisite for the application is an internationally recognized first academic degree (in Austria, Master's, Bachelor's or University of Applied Sciences degree from domestic or foreign universities) in a technical, scientific, legal or economic field of study. The feedback from students and alumni is very positive. The skills acquired can be put to best use in the professional environment and generally result not only in a professional boost but also in satisfaction with the direction of the job. The next course starts on October 20, 2022, and the deadline for applications is August 28, 2022.

Symposium Planerforum.Architektur

On the other hand, the symposium Planerforum.Architektur should be mentioned here, where every year exciting contributions on the decarbonization of the building stock, the latest technological developments in the context of climate-adaptive and sustainable planning and outstanding architectural examples are presented. Also discussions on the future of building can be heard and are thought-provoking. The program will also feature project examples from education and training, including the MEng Sustainable Construction of the ACE of the TU Wien and the LLL of the TU Graz described above, and both from new construction and renovation. Students have, for example, considered new building systems that are recyclable and use renewable resources (NawaRos) as building materials. Wood and clay as well as straw are used. But it is also conceivable to combine them with activated ceilings and columns in solid construction, so that any chosen building material can be used optimally. At the informal get-together afterwards, experiences were exchanged and contacts were made. After more than two years of cancellation due to the pandemic, admission was free for all participants this year. The Planners' Forum.Architecture took place on June 2, 2022 (full day) in the Kuppelsaal of the TU Wien. The detailed program as well as a review can be found at

Über die Autorin

Ass. Prof. Dipl.-Ing. Dr. Karin Stieldorf is an expert in the working group for sustainable building and conducts research at the Institute of Architecture and Design at TU Wien.