Green Building and Wood Products

Increasing recognition of wood’s environmental advantages
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BREEAM. Within the Materials section of BREEAM, credits are awarded on the basis of a building's quantified environmental life cycle impact through assessment of the main building elements—i.e., exterior walls, windows, roof, upper floors, internal walls, and floor coverings and finish. Impacts can be quantified either through use of an ISO-compliant LCA tool (wherein building designers must demonstrate that they know how to use the LCA tool and document how the building design has benefitted from its use), or through selection of building components based on either an LCA-based Green Guide developed and maintained by BRE, and/or ISO-compliant EPDs. Life cycle greenhouse gas emissions (in kilograms of carbon dioxide, or CO2 equivalent) for each element must also be reported based on a 60-year building life.

The shift toward performance-based assessment is also reflected in ASHRAE 189.1, the IgCC, and CALGreen.

The ASHRAE guidelines provide alternative prescriptive and performance pathways. The performance option requires that LCAs be conducted for a minimum of two building design alternatives. Assessment must demonstrate at least a 5 percent improvement in at least two categories, including land use (or habitat alteration), resource use, climate change, ozone depletion potential, human health effects, ecotoxicity, eutrophication, acidification, or smog. Completion of an LCA eliminates the need to adhere to prescriptive low-impact material requirements outlined earlier.

Similarly, the IgCC guidelines also offer the option to pursue either a prescriptive or performance path. Here, choice of the performance pathway requires a whole building LCA and demonstration that a given project achieves not less than a 20 percent improvement in environmental performance as compared to a reference design of similar usable floor area, function, and configuration that meets the minimum energy requirements of IgCC and structural requirements of the International Building Code. Environmental performance improvement is required in global warming potential and at least two of the following impact measures: primary energy use, acidification potential, eutrophication potential, ozone depletion potential, and smog potential. As in the ASHRAE program, fulfillment of this requirement eliminates the need to document adherence to a number of prescriptive elements related to material selection. CALGreen contains a similar provision.


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Originally published in Architectural Record
Originally published in June 2014