Sustainability lies in the product

In our everyday lives most of us spend a great deal of our time in a food store reading the ingredients, additives and GRAS on food packaging. We want to know how our food is produced, whether it is healthy and if it is safe for our children’s diet. Similarly, professionals working in the construction industry are faced with numerous product choices and are getting more and more conscious about their impact on the environment and society. Going even further, when choosing a material they have to know that the selection of each material has a significant role to play for the creation of a sustainable built environment. That is what the end-point is, isn’t it?

A different perspective

Everywhere in media, European round-tables and world summits people talk more and more about the reduction of carbon emission, “green cities”, “green buildings” and overall sustainability. However, for us in construction – sustainability is not only about carbon emissions and energy efficiency. Breaking the big concept of sustainability to manageable chunks we can say that first we have to look deeper into the construction product itself.

REDUCE, REUSE AND RECYCLE!

Each product that exists in the built world goes through what we call a construction product lifecycle – starting from its extraction, continuing with its processing, its transportation, and finally finishing with its use and disposal. All of these life cycle stages might have a negative health and environment influences such as water and air pollution, depletion of natural resources etc. That is why, it is important to think about environmental, social and health benefits when purchasing construction materials and products. For instance, purchasing products containing recycled materials helps the market of recycled materials to grow and slows down the consumption of raw materials and natural resources. The use of construction products and materials, whether or not recycled, from local markets not only reduces transportation impacts but it also supports the local economy.

All in all, the sustainability of a building includes efforts to reduce environmental impact by reusing and recycling materials obtained during construction, demolition or renovation. By using more recycled and reused materials on your construction project, you can reduce your overall costs.

Certifications of best practice

Naturally, there are sustainability certifications which give points for such good practices. Two of the best – known certification systems are Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and Building Research Establishment’s Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM).

BREEAM sets the standard for best practice in sustainable building design, construction and operation and has become one of the most comprehensive and widely recognised measures of a building’s environmental performance. It encourages designers, clients and others to think about low carbon and low impact design, minimising the energy demands created by a building before considering energy efficiency and low carbon technologies.

LEED is a green building certification program that recognizes best-in-class building strategies and practices. To receive LEED certification, building projects satisfy prerequisites and earn points to achieve different levels of certification. Prerequisites and credits differ for each rating system, and teams choose the best fit for their project.

How do environmentally-friendly products get selected?

The selection of environmentally-friendly products, however can be an issue. Often times contractors can make a cost-driven decision and neglect the all-important DATA that shows how a particular product aids sustainable building objectives. Our team at coBuilder has put a lot of effort and thought in addressing such issues and will soon present our view on how BIM technologies can aid compliance with European, national and market-specific regulations and requirements such as BREEAM, LEED, CPR etc. Stay tuned!