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.