How Firstplanit evaluates the environmental performance of a product
Firstplanit provides data analysis to enhance the sustainability of building projects. Among its features are product scores that evaluate the potential sustainability of construction materials based on their Environmental, Social, Health, and Monetary (ESHM) impacts. At Firstplanit, we assess 18 unique impact attributes that correspond to one or more ESHM benefits. The Product Scores’ value is calculated based on the product performance on the relevant impact attributes.
This series of articles will delve into the definition and evaluation of each attribute and the specific environmental, social, health, and monetary impacts they align with. Our first article in this series will concentrate on the environmental impact; 10 of the 18 attributes influence the environmental score of the product.
The Environmental Score reflects the impact of choosing this product on the environment. This includes global issues such as reducing global warming, natural resources depletion, waste, net fresh water usage, water and air pollution and lowering the building’s operational energy and water requirements.
- Identifying locally made products helps minimise energy expenditure and emissions associated with their transportation to the site.
- Low embodied energy and low embodied carbon are directly linked with GHG emissions.
- Products with good thermal performance lead to improvements in the buildings’ envelope energy efficiency, reducing heating and cooling loads.
- Product attributes such as reclaimed, end-of-life plan, versatility, durability and recycled content help salvage materials, conserve resources required for extraction, manufacture and transport of new materials and products, and reduce waste going into landfills.
- Rapidly renewable materials often require less energy to harvest because of their regenerative and carbon-sequestering lifecycles, while
- The rapidly degradable nature of products allows them to decompose faster, be absorbed by soil or compost, and produce significantly fewer waste streams.
Low Embodied Carbon
Definition: Embodied Carbon of a product is the sum of fuel and process-related carbon emissions produced during the product’s entire life-cycle, including extraction and manufacturing.
Fuel-related refers to the combusted embodied energy but not the feedstock energy retained within the product. Process-related refers to non-fuel-related emissions arising from chemical reactions.
We evaluate carbon emissions during extraction and manufacturing processes stages A1-A3 of the product life cycle. (Other attributes on this list cover the impact of other stages.)
Cut-off Criteria: For most Building materials, should be less than 7 kgCO2/m2 or 407 kgCO2/m3 or 0.74 kgCO2/kg.
For Thermal insulation, should be less than 81 kgCO2/m3.
Low Embodied Energy
Definition: Products that consume small amounts of energy to make are considered low embodied energy. The total embodied energy is the total amount of primary energy consumed during a product’s whole life cycle, including extraction, manufacturing, construction, maintenance and disposal. We evaluate energy consumed during extraction and manufacturing processes at stages A1-A3 of the product life cycle because the rest are project location-dependent.
Cut-off Criteria: For most Building materials, should be less than 160 MJ/m2 or 6450 MJ/m3 or 17 MJ/kg.
For Thermal insulation, should be less than 2275 MJ/m3.
Definition: Products made from abundant raw material that can regenerate themselves in 10 years or less and do not result in significant loss of biodiversity, increased erosion, or air quality impacts are considered rapidly renewable.
Cut-off Criteria : Minimum 75% of the product mass must be comprised of rapidly renewable material and regenerate within 10 years.
Definition: Products that are not made solely from virgin materials but contain recycled constituents within their mass. Recycled content should be from consumed, used, disposed products. Or from waste and scrap generated during the manufacturing process of another product.
Cut-off Criteria : A minimum of 20% of the total product mass must be recycled material.
Definition: Products that can be quickly broken down into biomass or simpler molecules by biological organisms and processes are considered rapidly degradable. Everything is biodegradable, but chemical treatments and coatings used to increase durability will often resist degradation, hanging around as waste for hundreds of years beyond their intended use timeframe.
Cut-off Criteria: 75% of the product mass must biodegrade rapidly, i.e. within 40 years. The process of biodegradation must not create harmful and toxic residues.
Definition: Products that have been previously used in buildings, temporary works , or other projects are then either slightly altered, re-sized, refinished, or adapted to be used again are considered reclaimed.
(Not recycled or reprocessed in any way.)
Cut-off Criteria: Manufacturer claim or evidence that the product is a second-hand product – it has not undergone any major alterations in order for it to be reused.
Definition: Products that can withstand and resist degradation without requiring excessive cleaning and maintenance are considered Durable. Degradation is caused by wreathing actions (moisture, temperature variations, radiation, etc.), chemical attacks (corrosion, carbonation, etc.), fire, insects, abrasion, or staining. Product durability is assessed by the number of years suggested for their intended use in the warranty or declaration of manufacturing standards and tests.
Cut-off Criteria: The value for the cut-off criteria varies for each material. You can access the full list by clicking the information for durable on the product evaluation page.
Definition: Products that can be installed in many parts of a building, serve many purposes, are designed in a modular fashion, and maintain their properties when cut down are considered versatile. This includes materials, components and systems which are simple to install and can be uninstalled without causing significant damage to the supporting structure or the material itself. Versatility allows repurposing of disposed product or the reusability of its offcuts to reduce waste when installed.
Cut-off Criteria: A Product that fulfils 3 out of 5 properties :
(a) Can be installed in many parts of a building,serves many purposes.
(b) Is designed in modules
(c) Easy to install and/or uninstall without causing significant damage to the supporting structure or the material itself.
(d) Can be repurposed easily at the end of their life.
(e) Maintain its properties when cut down.
Definition: Products extracted or manufactured using resources available within a defined distance from the project site are considered locally made.
The location of manufacturing units matters as some manufacturers could be distributing in the region but manufacturing far away in another country, this does not qualify as locally made.
Cut-off Criteria: The manufacturer declares that the product is made within the project’s country of origin
End of life plan
Definition: The product’s manufacturer has a plan for the material at the end of the product’s first use. This could be a take-back policy or collaborative programs with the local government or 3rd parties to ensure the collection of discarded products for recycling, refurbishment. Note that recyclability is not an end-of-life plan, but a plan in place to collect and send the product for recycling is an end-of-life plan.
Cut-off Criteria The manufacturer independently or collaboratively has:
(a) laid out a plan for responsible reuse or recycling of the material at the end of life and shared it with the user and
(b) made provisions for collecting products at the end of their life, followed by, recycling or refurbishment, declaring how much and what is done.
Definition: Products that resist heat transfer with a high R-value (inverse of the thermal conductivity or U-value) are considered a thermal barrier. The higher the R-value, the more effective it is as an insulator. A product must resist air transmission, heat loss, and heat gain between the inside and outside environment to assist with comfortable temperature indoors at low energy consumption.
Cut-off Criteria: Different products will declare different values like thermal conductivity, R-value or U value. Established formulas translate one into another for a like-for-like comparison of Thermal Conductivity.
Product scores are intended to give a holistic understanding of complex interrelated sustainability impacts for each material on our database. These scores are available from the product evaluation page. To learn how to navigate and interpret this feature check out our how to guide for this feature.