Blog/The direct and indirect impact of certified green building materials
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The direct and indirect impact of certified green building materials

As we’ve detailed in an earlier blog, the use of green building materials significantly contributes to sustainable construction. It’s with reason that building materials manufacturers are increasingly investing in the acquisition of material certifications — like Cradle to Cradle — for their products. But how a certified material contributes to green construction differs: its impact may be direct, or indirect. In this blog, we aim to explain this difference.

The direct impact of certified green building materials on green building labels
A high level of commitment to sustainable construction is demonstrated through the acquisition of green building labels. And certified green building materials like Cradle to Cradle products directly impact this acquisition, in some cases. For instance, green building certification systems like the DGNB and LEED allow you to earn green building labels points directly for using certified building materials. Read this whitepaper to learn more.

When architects select their materials, they are therefore advised to investigate the sustainable properties and certifications of materials.

But what if certified materials do not contribute to a green building label directly? In case you work with a green building certification system that doesn’t provide green construction points for certified material usage, are green building materials not relevant? Luckily, that’s not the case. Quite the opposite is true. 

The indirect impact of certified green building materials on green building labels
Certified products also help in acquiring a green building label in an indirect manner. Here is how it works: Materials manufacturers have to make tremendous efforts to create products that are rewarded with a certified material label, like Cradle to Cradle, for instance. This effort translates into applying production processes that significantly minimise the environmental impact involved in creating the material.

The effect of these efforts is measured in a Life Cycle Analysis (LCA): it calculates the negative impact of the product on the environment. Think about carbon footprint, ozone layer depletion, and three or four other effects. 

Let’s use Mosa tiles as an example: what’s the carbon footprint for digging out the clay, transporting the raw materials to the factory, producing the tiles, transporting them to the project location, installing the tiles, cleaning the tiles during use, and eventually deconstructing the tiles? 

The numbers generated from these types of analysis are described in an environmental product declaration (EPD). The same numbers are also often used in databases for sustainable materials, like the DGNB navigator, the Swedish BVB, Sundahus and Basta, or the Dutch Nationale Milieu Database.

With building materials and their contribution to green building labels, it all comes down to costs. Costs generated by the negative impact of a unit of products on the environment that is, in some systems also called “shadow costs”. The numbers are generated to illustrate that the costs are significantly lower for sustainable building materials than for building materials that are not sustainable. 

So even though green building label points do not get directly attributed to the use of certified materials at some green building certification systems, like breeam, they still contribute to a green building label indirectly. 

How? Simply because of its usage. The fact that a material produced at low environmental costs is used in a building justifies its contribution to a green building label. In most cases, however, green building label certification systems do offer direct green building label points for the usage of certified materials. One of those green label certification systems is the German DGNB — one of the more authoritative green building label institutes around. If you would like to learn more about green building labels like the DGNB, we recommend our whitepaper on the topic.

The whitepaper informs you about the importance and applications of green building labels, how they help architects grow, and even how to get green building certified. Download a copy of the whitepaper here for free.