Have you evaluated the environmental impact of your project?

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Modified on June 25, 2021

The construction industry is one of the largest consumers of energy and raw materials in the world and is a major source of pollution. We urgently need to get a deep understanding of the industry’s impact, adopt new technologies and minimise the harmful effect on the planet. But what has been of particular interest lately is the indirect environmental impact of construction products. However, to make well-informed decisions about what we want to include in our buildings, we first need to find a common way to collect and evaluate the environmental data of those products.

In this article, we draw your attention to some of the most important points of a study on the key environmental indicators for construction products devised by our experts in Cobuilder. The study – in the form of a whitepaper, Construction Products Key Environmental Indicators – aims to introduce the concept of environmental indicators, their sources and their growing importance in relation to market sustainability initiatives and industry standards. The complete document contains a matrix with the minimum set of environmental indicators to use when setting requirements for construction projects.

Download the full whitepaper from here.

Download EPD study

EPDs: a standardised document about a product’s environmental impact

Increasingly, credible environmental information about construction products is becoming a necessity. That information is delivered by manufacturers in the form of Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs). They provide a standardised way of declaring the environmental impact of construction products throughout their life cycle.

In Europe, all EPDs must conform to European Standard EN 15804. As a consequence, all standardised EPDs report the same list of environmental impact indicators, making it easy to compare a multiplicity of products.

While the indicators, such as the Global Warming Potential or Net Use of Freshwater, provide information about the environmental impact of a product, their sheer number is often confusing for construction stakeholders, who are not environmental experts themselves but wish to take informed decisions using them as a requirement.

Therefore, Cobuilder identified the need for providing guidance on how environmental indicators can be used to achieve sustainability goals and how those could be aligned to government initiatives, which are likely to affect regulations and laws in the future. Sustainability initiatives and policies that should be taken into consideration are The European Green Deal, Level(S) and Green Public Procurement (GPP) and more.

Sustainability initiatives, EPD usage and the need for structured environmental information

Currently, EPDs in construction projects and manufacturing are voluntary. However, their use is rapidly growing in line with awareness about environmental impacts. Both public and private stakeholders are increasingly demanding EPDs, and Cobuilder’s construction experts forecast that soon they will become part of governments’ sustainability strategies and policies.

After reviewing some of those important sustainability initiatives in its study, Cobuilder noticed a common feature between all of them. This is the need for trusted and reliable environmental data. The availability of well-structured and comparable environmental information in a digital format is critical for the successful implementation of those initiatives.

A solution that helps to structure, analyse and compare EPDs digitally

There is significant and largely untapped potential in using digital solutions for delivering construction product information to meet sustainability goals set by governments.

A structured way of managing data about construction products has been developed in the standards EN ISO 23386, EN ISO 23387 and the upcoming ISO/DIS 22057. The latter aims to structure EPD data in a proper digital format – a Data Template – that will improve the use of EPDs for construction products for digital construction.

Data Templates dramatically reduce the manual effort of reading and interpreting documents and transform information into structured data models which are the basis for future automation.

Final words

To create a more sustainable built environment, we need to find a structured and standardised way of collecting and evaluating environmental data digitally.

A potential solution to this challenge is the Data Templates methodology, which lies in the heart of Cobuilder’s software platform. Get in touch with our consultants and learn how your organisation can benefit from applying Data templates methodology.

Download the full whitepaper to get more details on the analysis of each of the abovementioned sustainability initiatives and to receive the specially crafted matrix providing you with guidance on using some of the key environmental indicators as per current and upcoming market and governmental sustainability initiatives.