Evidence is emerging to show the added value of embedding sustainability into business; on the bottom line, on their brand reputation and on shareholder value. Construction Companies in particular are looking to their supply chains to find solutions to their sustainability challenges, from addressing responsible sourcing of materials to resource efficiency through improved energy efficiency and waste reduction. Timber can support these companies in overcoming such challenges.
This page summarises the key drivers and organisations shaping the construction sector in terms of sustainability and outlines how this may affect the Timber Industry, where relevant.
Part L is a key legislative driver which relates to energy efficiency, with a new version of Part L introduced from 1st October 2010. The new regulations mean that buildings built after 1st October 2010 will need to have a 25% improvement in energy efficiency over Part L 2006. This new standard means that homes built after October 2010 will be equivalent to Code 3 of the Code for Sustainable Homes (see below). The next revision for Part L is due in 2013; equivalent to Code Level 4 of the code for sustainable homes. Timber frame buildings and roofs can provide innovative solutions to contractors needing to achieve high levels of energy efficiency, due to low thermal conductivity and the flexibility wood provides with a range of insulation products. For further details on Part L click here. For timber solutions to meet Part L see UK Timber Frame Association (UKTFA) or the Trussed Rafters Association (TRA)
Currently going through Parliament, the Energy Bill will see a step change in the provision of energy efficiency measures to homes and businesses, and make improvements to the UK’s infrastructure to enable and secure, low carbon energy supplies and fair competition in the energy markets. A key part of the Bill is the “Green Deal”- the government’s flagship scheme it hopes will stimulate the low carbon retro-fit market. In simple terms the scheme will provide up front finance for building owners to improve the energy efficiency of their buildings, with the savings in energy used to pay back the initial capital outlay. Early indications are that opportunities are limited for Timber, however they do exist, especially if collaborating with other industries who are expecting more from the Green Deal, such as the insulation and glazing industries. Examples of such collaboration includes products such as Structural Insulated Panels, Insulated Loft Boards and energy efficient timber framed windows and doors. For further details on Green Deal see the click here
Published by the UK Government, in June 2008, the strategy sets out a number of overarching sustainability targets across different themes such as Materials, Water, Waste, Biodiversity and Procurement. The targets run to 2012, and are being delivered by industry bodies such as the Construction Products Association. The Materials section of this Strategy is particularly relevant to the Timber industry, with targets on responsible sourcing and environmental profiling (see below) of construction products. For further details on the strategy click here
The environmental assessment of Buildings and Construction Products is becoming increasingly used within the construction sector, to understand a building or product’s environmental impact over its life.
The environmental assessment of a building is calculated and measured using a Building Rating System. Common to most building rating systems is the basic concept of looking at the whole building, measuring impacts across various sustainability categories, weighting the scores in some way and then adding them up to give an overall rating. Categories considered usually include energy and water use, impact of materials, waste, health and wellbeing and future adaptability. A number of schemes in operation in the UK are summarised below.
Launched in 1990, the Building Research Establishment's Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) is the oldest building rating system in the world. The Scheme is the main one used in the UK to rate the sustainability of non-domestic buildings. Domestic buildings are now covered by the Code for Sustainable Homes in England and EcoHomes in Scotland (see below). The environmental performance of a building is measured according to the following categories; Management (of the construction project), Health and Wellbeing, Energy, Transport, Water, Material and Waste, Landuse and Ecology, Pollution. Timber is specifically mentioned in the Management and Materials categories, where a target is must be met for the amount of materials that are responsibly sourced through recognised schemes (FSC and PEFC are both recognised). In the Materials section timber also has the opportunity to show its environmental credentials if it is listed and has a high rating (A or A+) in BRE’s Green Guide (see below).
Once the assessment is complete the building is rated on a scale of PASS, GOOD, VERY GOOD, EXCELLENT or OUTSTANDING and a certificate awarded to the development. It is now common for buildings funded by the public sector to have a minimum BREEAM rating as part of planning requirements, with a common minimum standard being “Very Good”. In July 2011, a new version of BREEAM will be launched, which takes into account the changes in Part L as well as adapting to the CEN350 framework (see below). The next update due is in 2013/ 14, in line with the next revision of Building Regulations. For further information see http://www.breeam.org/
Originally established as Ecohomes, the Code for Sustainable Homes is the rating system used to encourage and measure the sustainability of homes in the UK (excluding Scotland, which is still using Ecohomes). The code is based on BRE’s BREEAM rating system and covers nine categories’ of sustainable design (of which six have mandatory performance requirements, noted as M): Energy and CO2 emissions (M), Water (M), Materials (M), Surface Water Run-off (M), Waste (M), Pollution, Health and Wellbeing (M), Management, Ecology.
The Code is now inherently linked to the UK Government’s target of all new homes to be zero carbon by 2016. In the Spring Budget of 2011, as part of the UK Government’s Growth Plan a new definition of what constitutes a Zero Carbon home was published, as agreed by the Carbon Compliance task group, led by the Zero Carbon Hub. The new “looser” definition of Zero Carbon, now excludes unregulated energy demand (energy from the appliances within a home) and focuses on the energy demand from the fabric of the building along with the services installed to heat it.
There are also plans to base the revisions of Part L of the Building regulations in 2013 and 2016 on this agreed definition of zero carbon. Based on the new definition, homes built from 2013 will need to be a minimum of Code Level 4 and from 2016 this will increase to Code Level 5. For further details click here
CEN TC 350 was established by the EU Standardisation Body (CEN) in response to increasing concerns that the development of national Building Ratings Systems across the EU have the potential to become a technical barrier to European Trade within the Construction Sector. The CEN TC 350 committee was asked to develop a horizontal harmonised (i.e. applicable to all building types and products) approach to the measurement of embodied and operational environmental impacts of construction products and whole buildings across the entire lifecycle. The development of this framework is important as it sets the standards for measuring the sustainability of buildings and construction products across all EU member states, especially should the UK wish to regulate in this area. CEN350 in the UK is being coordinated by the British Standards Institute (BSI). For further details click here
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), the main competitor to BREEAM. is the rating system of the US Green Building Council and was launched in 1998. It uses a very similar process to rating a buildings’ sustainability to BREEAM. The categories that are scored are; energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts. LEED is fast becoming the global building rating system of choice. From a timber perspective, the main focus is on responsible sourcing. For further details click here
Passivhaus is the fastest growing energy performance standard in the world with 30,000 buildings realised to date. The standard’s strength lies in the simplicity of its approach; build a house that has an excellent thermal performance, exceptional airtightness with mechanical ventilation. There is no rating for a “Passivhaus”, a building either meets the standard or it does not. Timber is commonly used in buildings to meet the “Passivhaus” standard due to its natural insulating properties and low thermal conductivity. For further details see http://www.passivhaus.org.uk/ or http://www.passivehouse-international.org/
The environmental assessment of a construction product is commonly measured through its Environmental Profile Declaration (EPD). An EPD is produced by undertaking a Life Cycle Assessment/ Analysis of a product (global ISO standards have been developed to provide consistency in how an LCA is done) and provides information across a number of environmental impacts (e.g. climate change, Water, Waste etc) usually over the product’s life (from cradle to grave), although it can measure impacts from cradle to factory gate as well. This modular approach to developing an EPD may be more suitable for the timber industry, allowing the costs and benefits of undertaking EPDs to be shared across the timber supply chain. For example, the development of an EPD for a Timber product may look like the following;
EPD’s are not common at present within the Timber Industry, however a number of UK based companies have experience in producing an EPD for some of their products. The scope of these EPD’s do however differ, with some companies having decided to undertake a full EPD in line with the most commonly used database (the Green Guide- see below) whilst others have decided to focus on the issue of Carbon.
BRE's Green Guide to Specification is the UK’s most commonly used database for LCA information on construction products. The guide compares the environmental impact of different types of building specifications/ elements (e.g. flooring/ walls/ ceilings), by undertaking a cradle to grave LCA of the materials and components used within each specification/ element. Each specification/ element is then given a rating from A* to E, with A* being least environmental impact. The Green Guide only publishes the ratings of each element/ specification along with data on KgCO2 equivalent. It is available to buy as a hard copy from BRE or free online at www.thegreenguide.org.uk
As the name suggests, this LCA database focuses on the carbon profiles of a host of building materials such as cement, steel and timber. In the latest version (ICE 2.0) released in January 2011, the data provided on timber has low reliability due to poor data availability in general, given that the ICE database is developed through an analysis of secondary data sources. ICE also does not recognise the carbon sink and storage benefits of timber and therefore excludes the carbon sequestration and biogenic carbon storage benefits of timber. To obtain a copy of the database click here
ECOINVENT is a subscription based Swiss database which provides raw data (Life Cycle Inventory data), which feeds into an LCA. Specialist LCA consultants such as BRE, PE International and IVAM, who all have their own software and methodologies for undertaking LCA’s use this database to extract raw data from. For further details click here
PAS 2050 is a publicly available specification for assessing product life cycle GHG emissions, prepared by British Standards Institute (BSI) and co-sponsored by the Carbon Trust and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). PAS 2050 is an independent standard, developed with significant input from international stakeholders and experts across academia, business, government and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). The assessment method has been tested with companies across a diverse set of product types, covering a wide range of sectors. It is the most widely used and credible assessment methodology for carbon foot printing of a product. For further details click here
Resource Efficiency is high on both the EU and UK sustainability agendas, especially in the current economic climate where resource efficiency more often than not has a direct impact on costs or indeed revenue generation through co-products. Resource efficiency is in particular focusing around three main resources; Energy (and its direct links to carbon), Waste and Water. Given that the Timber industry is not particularly water or energy intensive, the key resource issue the industry’s focus to date has been on is Waste.
The work of the Timber Resource Efficiency Partnership (TREP) fits in well with the current EU and UK policy drive on Resource Efficiency. TREP is promoting efficiency on three fronts;
A recent government consultation on the Wood Waste Protocol also provides a useful framework for designing out hazardous wood treatments in timber based products. By designing out such treatments, a timber product’s reusability and recyclability is improved at its end of life, thus having an overall positive impact on Environmental Profile of timber products. For more information click here
Key Players in Sustainable Construction
For further information please email Anand Punja or call on 0207 291 5373