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 material manufacturers are continuing to invest 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. In some cases, certified green building materials like Cradle to Cradle products directly impact this acquisition. For instance, green building certification systems like the DGNB and LEED allow you to earn green building label points for using certified building materials.
When architects select their materials, they are therefore advised to investigate the sustainable properties and certifications of materials.
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. In fact, quite the opposite.
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: Material 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 minimize 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 this type of analysis is 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, 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.
Even though green building label points do not get directly attributed to the use of certified materials at some green building certification systems, like BREAAM, they still contribute to a green building label indirectly.
How? Simply because of its usage. The fact that a material produced at low environmental cost 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. If you would like to learn more about green building labels, we recommend our whitepaper on the topic.
The whitepaper informs you about the importance and applications of green building labels. Download a copy of the whitepaper here for free.