There are so many criteria to consider when attempting to select a material for a sustainable build. Is the material manufactured in a clean and efficient manner, how far and how energy efficient is the transportation of the raw materials and finished product, is the material mined or collected in a sustainable and non-polluting way and how is it disposed of at the end of the buildings life?
Each one of these factors can be measured in many different ways. Some have certification processes or verification bodies who can provide some assurance over the statements made by manufacturers but others do not. It is therefore very difficult to assess if most materials are truly green or not.
Cradle to Cradle (C2C) certification is a system that attempts to capture all these factors and provide an accurate overview of an items ‘greenness’ through its entire production and ultimately to its end of life and disposal. It is a complex certification and achieving it shows that a business has performed detailed reviews of its environmental impact and made significant changes to minimise its impact. You can review the C2C database of certified products here.
There are five levels of certification, basic, bronze, silver, gold and platin, however, no product has yet met the platinum standard.
There are five separate elements that are assessed; material health, material re-utilisation, renewable energy and carbon management, water stewardship, and social fairness. There are 500 products which have some level of C2C certification from baby scarves, clutch covers through to cleaning products.
Only 5 of these are structural building materials and of those only two have achieved the gold standard; Accoya and Thoma Holz100. Both these are wood products but of the two, Accoya, is much more versatile. It can be used for cladding, window frames and exterior decking but its most exciting application is when it is used to replace traditional construction materials such as steel for various structural applications.