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Ecolabelling of building products - a challenge and a unique opportunity.

 
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10 Mar 2009

Electronic Blueprint and ENVIROSPEC work with AEC Online to provide building specifications for safe and sustainable buildings, for architects, engineers and builders. The current economic downturn provides a challenge and a unique opportunity for the manufacturers of innovative building products.

On one hand, marketing budgets will be tighter – on the other hand developers will be looking for products that “do the job” cost efficiently. All thinking/caring professionals want to “do the right thing” in respect of preserving our environment. We wish to build and reside in sustainable buildings, which are energy-efficient, non-toxic, low-impact structures. However, no matter how well intentioned, we run the risk of making some foolish design decisions. This is best demonstrated by the following example.

The embodied energy of a double-glazed window is approximately twice that of a single-glazed window. However, the in-service thermal performance of double-glazing is often far superior to that of single-glazing – but not in all climates, all comfort level regimes or in all common combinations of free-running and air conditioning. An ecolabel that compares a single-glazed window to its peers, and a completely different Ecolabel, doing the same exercise for a double-glazed window, is of no help to the designer.

Both types of windows need to be considered as competing alternatives for the same applications - One set of circumstances (application and climate) will favour single glazing, while a different set of circumstances will favour double glazing. Building product sustainability specifications should be “benchmarked” against an agreed standard. Environmental benchmarking is not a difficult. It is done by predicting the life-cycle environmental impact of a standard form of construction, predicting the life-cycle environmental impact of the proposed alternative, and comparing the two. The difficulty lies in selecting an appropriate “benchmark”. It is proposed that a suitable “benchmark” is the “most common form of construction satisfying the building regulations”.

We need clear building product specifications and ecolabels, which cater for both embodied impacts (raw material, transport, manufacture, construction etc.) and in-service impacts. The presentation of such information must be made in a simple-to-use format - the down-side of failing to do so is the proliferation of misleading information leading to the selection of inappropriate building products. These points will be expanded in a paper to the IQPC 3rd Annual Cost Effective Sustainable Design & Construction Summit to be held at the Beach Rotana Hotel & Towers, Abu Dhabi from 15 to 18 March 2009.

Rod Johnston, Principal - Electronic Blueprint & ENVIROSPEC will be speaking at the 3rd Annual Cost Effective Sustainable Design & Construction Summit.
Rod Johnston, Principal - Electronic Blueprint & ENVIROSPEC will be speaking at the 3rd Annual Cost Effective Sustainable Design & Construction Summit.

Below you can download a selection of papers and presentations by Rod Johnston:



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