A building can be considered sustainable when it is environmentally friendly and energy efficient. It implies a very different way of conceiving architectural design, compared to what we can see in many buildings of the recent past. To do this, renewable energies must be used, in order to reduce CO2 emissions into the atmosphere, one should also take advantage of the maximum amount of sunlight, among other conditions. The ecological labels for buildings officially confirm this energy efficiency. We want to highlight their importance in this post.
Many factors must be taken into account for a building to be considered sustainable, such as respect for the environment and the use of clean energy, for example. It should be made of environmentally friendly or recyclable materials. It is also important to respect the environment where it should be located, without interfering with the ecosystem, also taking care to make it into the context. Another requirement for a building to be sustainable is the well-being and comfort of the people who will live in it.
The sustainability of a building must be issued in all the phases of the project, from the urban planning, design or construction phases, at the moment of its opening to the inhabitants and even the end of the building's life itself.
Ecological labels or eco-labels are quality certifications used to identify buildings that comply with a sustainable process while being designed, built, used and marketed.
With these labels, we know for sure that a building is really what it was intended to be, and in this way, everyone can know that it meets the necessary characteristics to be a sustainable building.
There are many eco-labels for buildings in the world, but today we are going to talk specifically about three of them: LEED, BREAM and MINERGIE.
This is one of the eco-labels for buildings developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, which stands for Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design.
It consists on an international standard system, based on several criteria established within the market for the development of highly efficient sustainable buildings. The main objective of the LEED label is to transform the construction process and to move towards the most sustainable possible in order to construct better buildings.
In Spain it has been promoted since 1998 by the Spain Green Building Council, and is very successful. The SpainGBC is a non-profit association that promotes this way of building construction. Currently there are more than 200 companies and organizations that have registered a building with the LEED label, this being one of the most important ecological labels for buildings in Spain. For this reason, MCH includes in its program a training module on LEED, so that MCH participants can be certified as LEED Green Associates.
Within the certification levels of this label we find can, LEED Silver, LEED Gold and LEED Platinum. Each one of these certificates is granted according to the level of sustainability reached by the building, being located in a suitable environment, whose water efficiency is correct, with a low level of CO2 emissions to the atmosphere, high quality in the indoor environment and an innovation in the design of the building itself.
This eco-label, which stands for Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Methodology, is a leading global method of building sustainability certification and assessment.
It is one of the most technically advanced certificates and it has a history of more than 20 years in the world of architecture and building. It currently has more than 200,000 certified projects, in addition to a network of more than 4,500 recognized consultants in the market.
BREEAM could not be missing from this list of eco-labels for buildings. It comprises a set of highly advanced procedures and tools designed to assess and measure the sustainability levels of a building. This applies from the early stages (design) to the habitability stages. It covers all the possible uses of the building, which can be private homes, health centres, a building dedicated to industrial activities, or schools.
To certify the sustainability of buildings, BREEAM evaluates them in 10 different categories: Health and Wellbeing, Transport, Waste, Pollution, Energy, Water, Materials, Management, Ecological Land Use and Innovation. This system enables a certification at different levels of the building's sustainability, and at the same time, it serves as a technical guide to build sustainable buildings. The use of this label is quite widespread in Europe.
This is one of the international eco-labels for buildings, based on low energy consumption, which also has a catalogue of different certificates that are adapted to the ecological requirements of architects and developers.
This standard is supported by the Swiss Confederation, where it is registered. It can only be used when a building really meet the expected standards of reduced energy consumption. One of the recommendations of this label is the construction of compact and airtight buildings, in order to achieve the required energy consumption standards in countries with a similar climate to Switzerland, where this criteria is advantageous.
Building according to this certificate means using efficient ventilation systems that continuously renewing the air in the building, without losing the thermal gains. The energy balance of the construction is one of the factors that will determine whether it meets the MINERGIE requirements or not.
Within this certificate, we find different certifications: Minergie-A, Minergie-P and the ECO one. With the first one, the building would be obliged to supply its the energy demand from renewable sources. The ECO one, also requests the environmental optimization of the building during its entire life cycle.
These are some of the most relevant eco-labels for buildings that we can find. Nowadays there are many more, and they all seek to promote and certify the construction of sustainable buildings that reduce, as much as possible, the emissions of C02 into the atmosphere.