Eco-conscious material choices

milieubewuste materiaalkeuzes

Eco-Consious material choices

Choosing a certain material has an impact on the environment. That impact is determined not only by the way the material is produced, but also by the raw materials for production, products needed for maintenance, treatment of the material at end of life (landfill vs recycling), etc. To map that all out in detail for each material and the entire building, extensive LCA calculations are needed. These are not always possible or desirable. So you can also choose a more intuitive approach – based on a few rules of thumb.

 

Rules of thumb for environmentally friendly materials

To map that all out in detail for each material and the entire building, extensive LCA calculations are needed. These are not always possible or desirable. So you can also choose a more intuitive approach – based on a few rules of thumb – and opt for:

  • Materials that have been evaluated by a third party and have a sustainability label
  • Materials containing recycled content (to prevent the depletion of raw materials)
  • Materials that are already available (reuse/remanufacture or from residual product)
  • Materials from residual waste or a by-product of other sectors and that are recyclable or biodegradable at end of life
  • Materials that are locally produced or obtained (aim for a short supply chain)

However, it is important to keep in mind that these are rules of thumb, and therefore not always applicable. It is possible that a material contains recycled content, but that the recycling process is so energy-intensive that it has a higher impact on the environment than an alternative produced with only virgin material. Or that reclaimed material was transported from a faraway country, so that the impact of the transport outweighs a new, locally produced material.

logo tool circulair gebouwd

How was this included in the Circular Built tool?

The options we have included in the tool are based on requirements in MAT 2 and BIN 3 from GRO (a tool for measuring durability, developed in Belgium)  and have also been expanded with requirements that we have formulated based on the expertise of the Buildwise regarding the environmental performance of materials.

In terms of environmentally conscious choice of materials, environmental impact in the preliminary design and environmental impact of the as-built file, we have specified both must-haves and extras.

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How can you measure this?

Based on a BOM (bill of materials), which includes the above-mentioned aspects (local production, recycled content, reuse, has a sustainability label, etc.), you can express in percentages the extent to which the materials in the building meet these requirements.

Real-life examples

De binnenkant van het voorbeeldproject - Living Lab van KULeuven
Living Lab Emergis de ingang

Which tools can help us here?

  • MAT 3 Materials passport excel-sheet (in Dutch): this table allows you to list all materials in the building and to indicate for each material its origin and whether it has a sustainability label. By doing this, you can express in percentage terms how environmentally conscious material choices were made.
  • NIBE Environment Classifications (in Dutch): database containing information on the environmental and health data of construction products
  • Databases that list and/or evaluate circular or environmentally friendly materials: C-bouwersPro, ProReMat, Circubuild,… (in Dutch)
  • The Ubakus calculation tool (in Dutch): for calculating moisture/vapour formation within insulation. This tool is particularly helpful for examining the applicability of bio-based materials.
  • Material Pyramid: this tool provides insights into the environmental impact of materials based on generic data.