08/01/2008

Looking at Product Life-Cycle Assessments

Forbo Flooring offers perspectives on avoiding greenwash

 

"A life-cycle assessment is the full assimilation of the environmental impact of a product, process, or service throughout its lifespan."


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Forbo Flooring North America

With unclear and inconsistent definitions and principles being tossed about regarding sustainability, Hazleton, PA-based Forbo Flooring Systems' 1. sus•tain reference guide may help you better understand how important independent, reputable sources and third-party, peer-reviewed methodologies are when making product choices. Following is some advice that Forbo offers ...

The best way to establish that the products you're looking at have been independently reviewed is to make sure that the manufacturers you're considering conduct an ISO-compliant life-cycle assessment (LCA). A life-cycle assessment is the full assimilation of the environmental impact of a product, process, or service throughout its lifespan. A manufacturer should establish the full impact that its products and processes have on the environment - this is known as an "environmental footprint" - and that information should be available to you as you shop around. Don't be afraid to ask for it.

The term "life-cycle" refers to a fair, holistic assessment that requires the analysis of all process elements, including raw materials extraction (substances used in manufacturing), processing, manufacturing, distribution, use, and end-of-life outcome, including all steps of transportation. This is the life-cycle of the product.

The Intl. Organization for Standardization (ISO) has developed environmental-management standards (ISO 14000) that incorporate LCA protocol (ISO 14040). These standards describe the principles and framework for life-cycle assessment.

An accurate life-cycle assessment measures a product's environmental footprint - throughout its entire life - against 12 environmental impact categories (EICs): global warming, acidification, eutrophication (an increase in chemical nutrients), habitat alteration, natural resource depletion, solid waste generation, ecological toxicity, human toxicity, ozone depletion, smog formation, indoor air quality, and embodied energy content.

A bio-based product's life-cycle can be organized into three categories that cover seven process elements (raw materials, pre-processing, production, distribution, installation, use and maintenance, and composting, recycling, and/or disposal):

  1. Field to Gate covers the processes of raw material acquisition and pre-processing. These process elements, generally involving companies and suppliers beyond the manufacturer, are often overlooked when manufacturers state their environmental impact. It may be hard for you to find. Keep that in mind as you're making decisions about products.
  2. Gate to Gate covers the impacts within a manufacturer's facility. This is the easiest for a manufacturer to control; usually, this information is made available to the public.
  3. Gate to Field/Final Disposition covers the distribution, installation, use and maintenance, and end-of-life outcome. Impacts here are often represented as life-cycle costing, yet life-cycle costing only measures financial, non-environmental impacts.

The effects of the seven process elements are measured equally against the 12 EICs. The cumulative impact forms the full life-cycle assessment.

When you're searching for products, ISO-compliant LCAs should be the basis of the environmental certification or label, and can be used for accurately comparing materials.


SOURCE: 1. SUS•TAIN BY FORBO FLOORING SYSTEMS

 


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Visit our website today to learn about the design flexibility of a Morton building and the endless possibilities of partnering with our designBUILD team.


Wood construction is both cost and energy efficient. Check out Morton Buildings and our designBUILD team online today to discover all the benefits of post-frame construction.


When choosing a metal-clad building for your next construction project, consider Morton Buildings, Inc., and their designBUILD team, we’ll make your dream a reality.

We Can Help You Reduce Energy by 30%

Our mission is to help our customers manage their buildings' energy costs, improve reliability, and enhance performance while having a positive impact on the environment.
CLICK HERE to find out how.

Bluebeam® Revu® simplifies digital facilities document management from design review to leveraging as-builts, maintenance manuals and O&Ms submittals.

 


 
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