Environmental certification - what certifications are available and what are the requirements for them?
Environmental certification in the construction sector is used to promote and ensure sustainability, environmental friendliness and the efficient use of resources in the construction process as well as in completed buildings. The various types of certification have been developed in response to increasing environmental challenges and the need to reduce the negative impacts that construction activities can have on the environment. In this article, we take a closer look at what the environmental certifications involve, what the benefits are and what they require.
- What is environmental certification?
Environmental certification for the construction industry is a process whereby buildings, infrastructure projects or construction processes are evaluated and audited to ensure they meet certain environmental standards and sustainability criteria. The certification is usually issued by an independent third party and aims to reduce the negative impact of the construction project on the environment, while also encouraging sustainable development.
- Globally used environmental certifications
Most countries have local, commercial environmental certifications, and some of these are also used globally. The two largest certifications are BREEAM (which is based in the UK, but used with local adaptations worldwide) and LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, an American certification system that is also used in Europe to identify and measure environmentally friendly design, construction, operation and maintenance).
- Benefits of environmental certification
Cost savings: By implementing energy-efficient solutions and sustainable building materials, a certified building can reduce energy and water costs in the long term. In addition, there may also be financial benefits during the construction phase, such as tax breaks or grants.
Health and well-being: Environmental certification also focuses on improving the indoor environment in terms of achieving better air quality, natural light, acoustics and ergonomics. A healthy and comfortable indoor environment can contribute to improved productivity and well-being among those people who use the building.
Marketing and image: Certification can be a strong marketing factor as it signals a commitment to sustainability and environmental responsibility, which can attract investors, tenants and customers who prioritise sustainability.
Regulatory benefits: Most certifications meet or exceed the requirements of local or national building codes and environmental standards.
- What does certification require from me in my construction projects?
Drawing and design: It is of course important to know the regulations in this context, but also to think about how the construction can be performed in an environmentally friendly way. The guidelines in, for example, LEED provide assistance with the planning of ventilation, lighting, acoustics and ergonomics in new or adapted buildings. The demolition and disposal of such material also needs to be given careful thought and reported during implementation.
Choice of materials: The cost of materials represents between 50 and 70 percent of the total project costs. It is therefore highly relevant to look at ways of minimising material waste by using material planning and management. This helps reduce costs, eliminate production processes that do not add value, and protect the environment. Even if the type of material is carefully specified in the drawing and design phase, and the requirements regarding strength, weight, etc. are included, it can be difficult to find the right option among all the various alternatives. A comparison service such as the one offered by SundaHus can be a useful tool in this regard.
Processes: How a construction project is carried out and how it is documented have clear links to the environmental certification to which it has to adhere. Careful documentation and communication are required, in order to make the planning and management of materials efficient. There are now digital systems and tools such as RFID tags for delivery tracking, which can help increase productivity and reduce overall project costs.
Cradle to Cradle – a concept to maximise the positives
Environmental certification of buildings, facilities and urban districts is now increasingly being used to ensure the sustainable development of constructed environments. The main purpose of such certification is to promote social and economic benefits and minimise negative impacts on people and the environment. The requirements for the different levels of certification are detailed and based on clear rating systems. At the same time, the concept of the circular economy is gaining momentum and an increasing number of participants are turning to Cradle to Cradle (C2C), a concept that, instead of just focusing on minimising negative impacts, aims to maximise the positive impact on the environment and the people using the buildings.
Certification promotes sustainability by setting high standards in areas such as energy efficiency, water use, material selection and waste management. In addition, it helps ensure that developers meet the requirements of the authorities, and can be useful in the search for financing. iBinder’s various information management services for builders and managers help structure the work, increase communication, reduce errors and ultimately enable successful certification.
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