Background to the Green Guide to Specification
Methodology and Sponsors
Copyright: All information in the Green Guide to Specification online is copyright BRE Global Ltd. No user of the Green Guide has the right to publish information in any form, from the Green Guide online. The website content remains copyright of BRE Global Ltd and any third party publication must first obtain the written permission of BRE Global Ltd.
The first edition of The Green Guide series in 1996 aimed to provide a simple 'green guide' to the environmental impacts of building materials which was easy-to-use and soundly based on numerical data.
The Green Guide is part of BREEAM (BRE Environmental Assessment Method) an accredited environmental rating scheme for buildings. The Green Guide contains more than 1500 specifications used in various types of building. Since the previous edition, information on the relative environmental performance of some materials and components has altered reflecting both changes in manufacturing practices, the way materials are used in buildings, and our evolving environmental knowledge.
We examine the relative environmental impacts of the construction materials commonly used in six different generic types building including:
- Commercial buildings, such as offices
The environmental rankings are based on Life Cycle Assessments (LCA), using BRE's Environmental Profiles Methodology 2008.
Materials and components are arranged on an elemental basis so that designers and specifiers can compare and select from comparable systems or materials as they compile their specification. The elements covered are:
- External walls
- Internal walls and partitions
- Ground floors
- Upper floors
- Floor finishes
Across these building element categories the Guide provides an extensive, but not complete catalogue of building specifications covering most common building materials.
This data is set out as an A+ to E ranking system, where A+ represents the best environmental performance / least environmental impact, and E the worst environmental performance / most environmental impact. BRE has provided a summary environmental rating - The Green Guide rating, which is a measure of overall environmental impacts covering the following issues:
- Climate change
- Water extraction
- Mineral resource extraction
- Stratospheric ozone depletion
- Human toxicity
- Ecotoxicity to Freshwater
- Nuclear waste (higher level)
- Ecotoxicity to land
- Waste disposal
- Fossil fuel depletion
- Photochemical ozone creation
By evaluating the performance of materials and building systems against these specific environmental impacts, which have also been ranked on an A+ to E basis, it is possible for the specifier to select specifications on the basis of personal or organisational preferences or priorities, or take decisions based on the performance of a material against a particular environmental impact.
Perceptions regarding best environmental practice are subject to change as our understanding increases and a clear consensus regarding what is most important and practically achievable emerges.