A new study shows that a large share of the Danish construction industry finds the current building materials documentation to be lacking, and they want to see a new system implemented. Inadequate documentation of the contents of building materials is an obstacle to choosing sustainable building materials. The Danish government’s Advisory Board for Circular Economy recommends the development of standardized building and product “passports”.
Henning Larsen and NCC, under the auspices of Sustainable Build and in collaboration with Tarkett, have now developed a procedure for implementing this type of standardized declaration.
Information on indoor climate and degassing, chemical content and ease of disassembly should be readily accessible by construction industry stakeholders. This is the missing link in existing documentation. The study conducted by the working group found that it would be an invaluable aid for advisors, customers and suppliers in their search for healthy and environmentally-friendly building materials – while also enabling the preservation of assets when a building is decommissioned.
A voluntary declaration program would enable manufacturers to provide information about the contents, properties, certifications and data regarding the materials, as well as their compliance with specific DGNB and LEED requirements. The document proposed by the working group – based on the model used in Sweden – would provide a comprehensive overview of multiple issues that are not covered in the existing environmental product declarations.
Transparency in building materials is essential to disassembly planning from the beginning of a project, and it also gives industry players the motivation to perform such planning.
This thorough documentation is a necessity for a circular economy, says Martha Lewis:
“Circular economies arise when a building does not lose value after its construction is completed. When the materials can be reused, the building continues to possess the value of the materials with which it is built. We must realize that buildings are resources that you can make money from at a later point in their life cycle. This gives the developer a financial incentive to choose better materials,” says Henning Larsen’s materials specialist, Martha Lewis.
“A material may have a positive environmental profile, as defined in terms of carbon emissions and energy consumption, without saying anything about whether it contains chemicals that might be harmful to people living in the building or which may be emitted when the product is incinerated,” she says.
Henning Larsen is one of five founding partners in the industry-wide innovation project, Sustainable Build, which works to promote growth and sustainability in the Danish construction sector. Sustainable Build is a collaboration between the Danish Industry Foundation, Danish Architecture Centre and the Fund for Green Business Development, and developed in collaboration with LeaderLab. The other founding partners are Pension Danmark, Central Denmark Region, Tarkett and NCC. Sustainable Build’s activities are also realized through close cooperation between the construction industry’s manufacturers, suppliers, developers, companies and organizations. One of the project’s key issues is to promote the transparency of materials and circular economy by implementing an improved system for building materials documentation. Martha Lewis is part of TaskForce 3, material knowledge and traceability.