A building’s environmental performance can be used to objectively assess the environmental impact of the building’s life cycle through a multi-criteria approach. Since 2012 this assessment has been regulated by standard NF EN 15978, which provides a method for calculating this performance. Environmental declarations for construction products, building equipment, and services are meant to help calculate the environmental impacts of a given construction work.
Studies have shown that the only scientific way to compare the environmental impact of construction products is to study products that perform exactly the same function and have the same performance in a building.
As such, although insulation for walls and insulation for attics may possibly perform the same function, they do not have the same environmental impact as they have different technical constraints due to their different applications.
Currently there is no document, nor recognised and reliable benchmark, that makes it possible to qualify a construction product as an “eco-product”, “eco-material” or “environmentally-friendly material”.
Indeed, all construction products and equipment have impacts on the environment. To evaluate these impacts, one must consider energy and water consumption, waste products, pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, throughout their manufacture, transport, use, and finally disposal or recycling. This is what is done during a product’s life cycle analysis (LCA).
To determine how environmentally friendly one product is versus another, one must be able to compare their LCAs and determine a threshold value below which a product would be environmentally friendly, which we do not know how to do. For example, how much CO2 can a product emit and still be described as environmentally friendly? Furthermore, one should take into account how beneficial a product is for the building.
This comparison necessitates that both products perform the same service and have the same technical performance (mechanical, thermal, acoustic, etc.), which is rarely the case.