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Network material ecology for hospitals

The use of sustainable building materials is a key issue for sustainable development of the building sector. Emission free indoor air, minimized embodied energy of construction materials and health risk for construction workers are three main aspects. Between five hospital operators in Austria, Germany and Switzerland a practical exchange of experience focused on material ecology was initiated and moderated.

Color & LightingResearchIndoor air qualityMaterial ecologyInterior

Starting point/Motivation

In the last years the discussion about sustainable building focused primarily on energy efficiency. The issue of healthy building materials has taken a back seat. In times of increasing energy efficiency of buildings health and environmental issues gain importance. (Fechner 2010, Fechner et al. 2007, Hofer et al. 2006, Zwiener und Mötzl 2006, Belazzi 2002, Öko Institut 2001)

Why? On the one hand because buildings become more air tight and therefore indoor air emissions become much more relevant. On the other hand because in building of high energy efficiency the life cycle burden of energy use is decreasing and therefore the energy consumption during the production of building materials is gaining importance (Gustavsson und Joelsson, 2010, König et al. 2009 Sartori und Hestnes, 2007, Lipp et al.)

Over the last years the pressure on public authorities is increasing to use their market power as well as their role model to increase the transformation towards environmentally friendly and innovative markets (Tisch, 2012). To do this the public authorities need – beside a legal framework – also numerous tools, e. g. information material and training courses. A tool, which is relatively new to public authorities, is the information and know-how exchange between them in networks specialized on public authorities.

Contents and Objectives

This project pursued the overriding goal that in the construction and renovation of hospital buildings an increasing amount of healthy and environmentally sound materials should be used. The term „healthy and environmentally sound materials” is defined in this project as follows: Materials should be produced with low energy consumption and should be free of toxic pollutants. Preferable materials are made from renewable or recycled materials and do not harm the health of the workers that use them during construction as well as those who use the building later on. The focus of this study was on the aspects of toxic-free and good indoor air quality. (Uhde, Salthammer 2007)

To achieve this goal a network of experts for the planning and construction of hospital buildings was initiated. This project had several goals:

  • To research and evaluate the current status-quo regarding material ecology and energy efficiency (incl. renewable energy and plus energy buildings) and which factors influence the implementation of material ecology issues in the organisations.
  • To research together with all network partners, which tools to implement material ecology are still necessary for their implementation in these organisations and to develop these instruments.
  • To assist all network partner while they implement these material ecology criteria in their pilot projects.
  • Linking this network “Ökobaunetz Krankenanstalten” to existing initiatives like the European branch of the international network “Health Care Without Harm” (
  • Distributing the project results via a public half-day workshop, articles in professional journals, a press release and presentation at external symposia and workshops.

Leading hospital operations from Austria, Germany and Switzerland take part in this project and the developed network „Ökobaunetz Krankenanstalten“. These are operator of public hospitals from the Austrian province of Styria (KAGes) and Upper Austria (gespag and “Kreuzschwestern Wels”), the construction department of the province of Lower Austria (responsible among others for nursing and retirement homes), the University Clinic of Freiburg (Germany), Basel and Bern (both Switzerland), the “EcoBuyVienna” program of the City of Vienna and the international hospital network “Health Care Without Harm”.

Further information

Project team

bauXund forschung und beratung gmbh (project lead)
IBO - Österreichisches Institut für Baubiologie und Bauökologie GmbH
IFZ - Interuniversitäres Forschungszentrum für Technik, Arbeit und Kultur (IFZ)
GESPAG - Gesundheits- und Spitals AG (OÖ Landeskrankenhäuser)
KAGes - Steirermärkische Krankenanstaltengesellschaft mbH
OMS - Objekt Management Service GmbH
Land Niederösterreich
Stadt Wien, ÖkoKauf Wien Programm
Universitätsklinikum Bern
Universitätsklinikum Freiburg

Research period

March 2010 – February 2012

Funding Institutions

Funded by the Federal Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology in the programme Building of Tomorrow