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FAQs - Environmental Profiles


1. What is the Environmental Profiles Methodology?

The Environmental Profiles Methodology is a specific approach for applying LCA to the built environment. It is appropriate for building and infrastructure scenarios and can be used for assessing the environmental impact of basic materials through to entire buildings.

2. The specification on the Green Guide website has an impact under the nuclear waste category. Does this mean that it is radioactive?

The impact category relates to high and intermediate level nuclear waste.  This is associated with the waste produced by nuclear power stations, so relates directly to the amount of electricity used by each process, and the share of nuclear in the relevant electricity mix. It does not mean that the material is radioactive.

3. What recognised standards is the Environmental Profiles Methodology consistent with?

The Environmental Profiles methodology for construction products is a "type III" environmental labelling scheme for construction products and elements. The methodology has been prepared to conform with the relevant ISO standards - ISO 21930, ISO 14025, and standards relating to Life Cycle Assessment in general, ISO 14040 and 14044.

4. Where can I find further information on the Environmental Profiles methodology?

Further information on the Environmental Profiles methodology can be found by downloading the methodology document.  You can also find documents relating to the consultation process that was undertaken during the update.

5. What environmental impact categories are examined by the Environmental Profiles methodology?

The environmental impact of the construction products are assessed under the following thirteen impact categories:

  • Climate change: kg CO2 eq (100 yr)
  • Stratospheric ozone depletion: kg CFC-11 eq
  • Eutrophication: kg phosphate (PO4) eq
  • Acidification: kg sulfur dioxide (SO2) eq
  • Photochemical ozone creation (summer smog): kg ethene (C2H4) eq
  • Human toxicity: kg 1,4 dichlorobenzene (1,4-DB) eq
  • Ecotoxicity to water: kg 1,4 dichlorobenzene (1,4-DB)eq
  • Ecotoxicity to land: kg 1,4 dichlorobenzene (1,4-DB) eq
  • Fossil fuel depletion: tonnes of oil equivalent (toe)
  • Waste disposal: tonne solid waste
  • Water extraction: m3 water extracted
  • Mineral resource depletion: tonne of minerals extracted
  • Nuclear waste: mm3 high level waste

6. Does the Environmental Profiles Methodology cover the full life cycle?

Environmental information in an Environmental Profile covering all life cycle stages (‘cradle to grave') comprises data from the following four life cycle stages:

  • product stage (raw material supply, transport, manufacturing of products, and all upstream processes from cradle to gate);
  • construction process stage (transport to the building site and building installation/construction);
  • use stage (maintenance, repair and replacement, refurbishment);
  • end of life stage (recycling and disposal; all including transport).

7. Are different end of life material disposal methods, electricity generation technologies and transportation modes assessed in the Environmental Profiles Methodology?

Disposal route models have been produced for construction materials at disposal, consisting of the percentage of material sent to each disposal route (landfill, incineration, recycling and reuse). Where relevant, they are also specific to construction waste, refurbishment waste and demolition waste. These models are used to calculate the relevant impacts of the disposal route using the Ecoinvent data.

The models are checked with manufacturers for appropriateness and tailored models were created where evidence is available for particular disposal practices.

Detailed LCA models for electricity production for national production across Europe have been sourced from the Ecoinvent database.

For transport of materials to the factory, data is obtained from the manufacturers for the distance travelled, mode of transport (e.g. sea, rail, and road), vehicle or ship type and average loads or number of deliveries and return load. If data is not provided, then BRE have used default data provided by the Department for Transport from the continuing Survey of Roads Goods Transport.

Manufacturers are asked to provide data on the typical methods of transport of the product to the site. This includes distance travelled, vehicle type and average load and return load if any. In the absence of this information, then BRE will use default data.

8. What is a functional unit?

The functional unit is defined as the quantified performance of a product system for a building product for use as a reference unit in an Environmental Profiles based on LCA. For example, if the element is an external wall, we need to define the performance characteristics so that each external wall specification is compared on a level playing field. The functional unit is usually defined with reference to its loading capacity or its U-value.

9. What sort of consultation process was undertaken in developing the Environmental Profiles methodology?

The research for the current Environmental Profiles methodology was undertaken in consultation with three groups:

  • The Green Guide steering group
  • The Construction Products Association Manufacturers Advisory Group
  • A panel of LCA expert advisors

The technical quality of the methodology development process was overseen by the BRE Sustainability Board. The consultation process was exhaustive covering all aspects of the methodology and the Green Guide to Specification. BRE prepared documentation and provided presentation of its intentions, invited feedback, and in due course responded to feedback. The process was directed towards arriving at consensus on all issues.