Over the past two years, the term ‘carbon footprint’ has become increasingly well established and everyone is now thinking about reducing their impact on the environment. Buildings are one of the biggest users of energy and the construction industry is addressing how the impact can be minimised. Sustainable construction is a major consideration for all those involved in the specification process and finding a product with excellent environmental credentials is essential. John Dunnington, Marketing Executive at Euroclad looks at some of the key issues surrounding responsible specification.

In a world where the word ‘sustainability’ is becoming ever more commonplace, the key issues for specifiers are to make sure the products and systems they specify today, do not lead to problems tomorrow. Products which are being specified increasingly need to justify themselves in three ways – their manufacture, performance and end of life.

Products need to be manufactured in as sustainable a way as possible, and to come from manufacturers who take their responsibilities seriously and who themselves operate in a sustainable way.

Some processes and materials will always have a carbon footprint. Indeed, the very process of driving materials to site is problematic. In this case, unavoidable carbon emissions can be offset as part of a carbon offsetting programme such as the Confidex Sustain initiative from Corus, which offers the World’s first cradle to grave CarbonNeutral metal building envelope.

Through Corus Confidex Sustain™, for every 1kg of CO2 generated by the production and installation of pre-finished steel cladding, fixings and insulation, Corus will offset 1kg in climate friendly projects. These have a social as well as environmental benefit, with investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency projects in various locations worldwide.

A key performance requirement of products which aim to deliver sustainability is thermal efficiency. Long term savings can be made in terms of energy used and money spent on heating a building, simultaneously reducing carbon footprints and heating expenses. All commercial buildings have to be tested for air tightness to ensure government standards are reached. The only exceptions to this rule are commercial properties under 500m2 and factory-made modular buildings. Euroclad’s Elite Systems offer exceptional air tightness and also provide effective U-value performance. Standard constructions have U values of 0.25W/m2K but can accommodate requirements as low as 0.16W/m2K.

As well as the manufacture and performance of the product or system, specifiers also need to consider the end of life and recyclability of a product. This traditionally tends to focus on the potential for the product or the raw materials to be reused. However, if a product or components in a product cannot be recycled the issue of disposal comes into play. It is sometimes the case that products which seem innocent enough and which have had a satisfactory performance suddenly become very problematic at the end of life.

A recent dramatic example has been when the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) stopped demolition at the former Chungwa Picture Tubes site in Holytown, Lanarkshire, pending an investigation into the proper disposal of foam insulated cladding panels. Demolition was halted following fears that the panels were not being treated as hazardous waste leading to the potential release of banned ozone-depleting gases (HCFCs) into the atmosphere.

Euroclad’s Elite Systems have been designed with recycling in mind. Made from mineral wool insulation and steel skin cladding, Elite Systems have an established route for recycling and disposal at the end of life, with recycling generating around £1 per square metre revenue.