Updated EPD Infographic for 2017

I’ve just updated my infographic showing the number of Construction Product Environmental Product Declarations (EPD) with the latest figures for the start of 2017, and a whole lot more detail.  Thanks to all the Programme Operators who provided information – I hope I’ve interpreted it correctly.

Happy reading.  If you want to provide a quick link, it’s bit.ly/2017EPD.



Posted in Embodied Impacts, EN 15804, Environmental Product Declarations, Environmental Profiles, EPD, Standards, TC 350 | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Some thoughts on BREEAM (again)

I’m currently heading down to the UKGBC consultation of the development of BREEAM, and thought it would be helpful to review my concerns with the approach to materials and other aspects such as waste and site energy use within BREEAM.

This is drawn from an earlier post written when BREEAM took over CEEQUAL.

So why do I question BREEAM’s scientific methodology in relation to materials? The reason is that the scores for various credits seem to reward some actions in a way which does not reflect the actual environmental impact of the action.

BREEAM scores

As you can see from the table above, which covers Materials Related BREEAM 2014 credits, weighted for a Fully Fitted Out building, the greatest score can be obtained by using building elements with a Good Green Guide rating.  However, some of this score can come from the use of products with Environmental Product Declarations.  This might show that the product used is the terrible in terms of environmental impact, but the Mat 01 uplift points will still be awarded.

Where I really question BREEAM however is in the weighting given to construction waste.  It is possible to obtain 3.8% of a perfect BREEAM Score by reducing construction waste to exemplary levels (Wst 01).  This is excellent, and performance based.  But with construction waste being between 2 and 10% of materials used, does it really merit half the BREEAM score from specifying low impact building elements (8.8%)? Additionally, if you recycle exemplary levels of what construction waste you do produce, you are able to obtain a further 1.9%, meaning you can obtain almost as much reward for doing something good with less than 10% of the materials used, compared to the reward for choosing low impact materials in the first place.  If BREEAM was scientific, it would not be possible to obtain more than 10% of the Mat 01 score from Wst 01.

Similarly, 1.9% is available by specifying exemplary levels of Recycled Aggregates.   Recycled aggregates are already considered within the Green Guide ratings for upper floors, concrete structure and hard landscaping, so this is a double counting of benefit.  On top, does the use of recycled aggregate really merit about 30% of the score for specifying low impact materials for walls, floor, roof and hard landscaping?

The same is true for insulation which has 1% compared to 6.8% for the other building elements. Many studies have shown insulation has a tiny influence on the embodied impact of the building – its major effect is in reducing operational impacts – but BREEAM focusses heavily on the embodied impacts of insulation using Mat 04 without any scientific basis.

Hopefully, through the process of consultation as BRE now develop BREEAM, it will be possible to ensure that the credit structure has a more scientific basis.  But evidence from BREEAM 2014 shows that credits are more often weighted towards aspects which can be easily measured, or which ensure BRE business from Green Guide ratings and certification, rather than on the basis of impact.

Posted in EPD, LCA, Life cycle assessment, TC 350 | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

I’m for Remain

I believe, as members of the EU, the UK really does influence the Standards and Regulations which the EU creates. I have seen this as a UK expert on the Standards Committee I work on. If we leave, we will have no influence but exporters will still have to meet the standards created without our input. This will be the worst of all worlds.

Posted in regulation, Standards | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Are cyclists really bad for the planet?

Ieuan Compton (@welshboy) asked me what I thought of an article that suggested that cyclists following a Paleo diet were travelling in a worse way for the planet than those driving cars.
The answer is really that the Paleo diet is the problem, not the cycling.
Cycling a kilometre uses an additional 30-50 calories (actually kilocalories but calories that dieters count). These calories are additional to the normal metabolic energy use that will happen whether we are active or not. The way that we obtain these, say, 50 calories can have big implications for the carbon impact of cycling (or any other activity that uses 50 additional calories, like running at the gym).
One of the lowest carbon impact ways of fuelling activity is with sugar. British Sugar calculated the carbon footprint of sugar as 600 g using the PAS 2050 standard. 1 kg of sugar has about 3800 calories so you can get 50 calories of energy for 8 grams of CO2.
Walkers Crisps calculated the carbon footprint of a packet of crisps as 80 g of CO2 for a 23 gram, 130 calorie packet. So if you us crisps to fuel your 50 calories there will be 31 g CO2.
But beef has a footprint of around 13300 g CO2 per kg, with a calorie content of about 2000 per kg. this means 50 calories has 266 g CO2 associated with it.
So you can see that there are plenty of low impact ways to cycle. But how does this compare to driving. The average petrol car produces about 240 g of CO2 per km, accounting for direct emissions from the vehicle and the emissions associated with producing the fuel. But an efficient, small diesel car could have much lower carbon emissions. As the driver is not active in the car, he has no additional calories to fuel so it is right that a Paleo cyclist would have a similar impact to a typical car travelling the same distance. But if the driver used the gym to get his exercise after driving to work say, whereas the Paleo cyclist cycled to work but didn’t go to the gym, then it would be pretty equal if the driver used sugar. But if he too was Paleo with a big car then driving would be terrible.
And if the cyclist used anything other than beef then cycling would be less damaging, with sugar being close to zero impact compared to driving.

Posted in LCA, Life cycle assessment | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Companies that listen to climate science on Climate Change and the need to Act

155 companies have signed up with Science Based Targets to set greenhouse gas emission reduction targets based on climate science.

These included the construction and real estate related companies Autodesk, Owens Corning, Kingfisher, Outokumpu Oyj and Land Securities.

The full list can be found here.

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Would concreting over the UK to build housing reduce house prices?

IMG_6255.PNGThe government could cover the whole of Britain in new housing and property prices would continue to rise if monetary policy remains as loose as it is now, according to notorious Societe Generale strategist, Albert Edwards.
Let’s test the hypothesis. Urban land use, meaning all buildings and infrastructure, including parks and gardens, is less than 12% of land use in the UK. If we build at 16 homes per hectare, the typical rate for the green belt, we could build 330 million new homes on all the remaining land.

Methinks such oversupply (enough for every man, woman and child to have five houses each) might affect house prices!

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President Obama on Climate Change and why it gets him anxious and keeps him up at night

Plus some other important stuff too

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Why it’s worse to pay too little than too much

“It’s unwise to pay too much, but it’s worse to pay too little. When you pay too much, you lose a little money – that’s all. When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do. The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot – it can’t be done. If you deal with the lowest bidder, it is well to add something for the risk you run, and if you do that you will have enough to pay for something better.”

John Ruskin

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Why we should celebrate the “goatman”

In the Toaster Project, Thomas Thwaites took a toaster, bought for less than £5, and tried to remake it from basic raw materials. By trying to refine iron to make the element and mould recycled plastic to make the case, he demonstrated how fantastic our materials science and manufacturing expertise has become that we now take these products entirely for granted. He showed how totally disassociated we have become from the supply chain and impacts of our consumption. When you see him spending nearly a day burning LPG to try and reduce iron ore to iron with little success, the reality of embodied energy and the successful efforts of industry to increase energy efficiency become very much more real.
I am sure that the complete change of mindset required to “become a goat” will generate ideas which will stimulate innovative thinkers and designers like Thomas for many years to come. I look forward to reading his book, ‘Goatman: How I took a holiday from being human’.
Thinking outside the box in this way is a skill which should be nurtured.

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Michael Morpurgo on Climate Change and the need to act

A short film written by Michael Morpurgo for the Climate Coalition’s “Show the Love” campaign.

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